The U.N. Children's Fund is appealing for $856 million to assist children and women who are victims of war and natural catastrophes in 39 countries. UNICEF's new Humanitarian Action Report presents a picture of countries affected by severe political crisis, such as Chad and Kenya, as well as the emergencies that afflict so-called forgotten countries. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

All parts of the world are affected by natural disasters and conflict. But, the U.N. Children's Fund, says sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit.

Sudan is a country that is rarely out of the news. UNICEF Representative in Mozambique, Leila Pakkala, says recovery and development work goes on throughout the country.

But, she tells VOA, there are large pockets of the population, most notably in the conflict-ridden province of Darfur, that continues to suffer and need special attention.

"We know that the numbers of internally displaced people has grown to over two million and the conflict has damaged the livelihoods of very large population," said Pakkala. "UNICEF is supporting programs that aim to increase health and nutrition, increase access to safe water and sanitation and make sure that children have access to education across the country."

UNICEF is requesting $150 million to carry out its humanitarian operations in Sudan. The report notes that many of these same problems afflict the tens of thousands of refugees that have fled Darfur to neighboring Chad.

The situation in Kenya is another crisis that is much in the news. The U.N. agency reports children make up about one half of the 300,000 people that were forced to flee their homes following post-election violence.

They currently are living in camps and UNICEF estimates 80,000 of these children are under age five. It says they are particularly vulnerable and in urgent need of assistance in health, education and nutrition.

Besides the headline-grabbers, Pakkala says there are many countries such as Somalia and the Central African Republic that are all but forgotten. Yet, she says, the children and women there are in need of support.

"On the one hand, we do need to be continuing our support to life-saving interventions," said Pakkala. "On the other hand, we do need to be looking at longer-term recovery, transition and developmental initiatives in all sectors of importance of children whether it is health and nutrition, whether it is regeneration and access to water, whether it is ensuring a protective environment or making sure children have access to education and benefit from quality education."

The report puts the spotlight on the nearly one million people who are currently displaced by conflict in West Africa. It deplores the systematic rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which it calls a weapon of war.

UNICEF says flood victims in Mozambique and other countries in southern Africa, as well as victims of cyclones in Bangladesh are in great distress. It says many children in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan are acutely malnourished and many suffer from trauma.