United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was created in 1946. It was renamed the United Nations Children's Fund in 1953, when the fund's focus changed from emergency aid to on going support of children's needs. The acronym UNICEF was retained, however. With eight regional offices and 125 country offices, UNICEF strives to create a world where all children share in the joy and promise of childhood with dignity, security, and self-fulfillment.

Administration of UNICEF

The United Nations, headquartered in New York, hosts the world center for UNICEF operations. Thirty-six members of an executive board report to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Board oversees implementation of policies; monitoring of worldwide activities; and the consistency and acceptability of UNICEF strategies and programs, as well as the organization's financial budget, administrative plans, and reports.

Resources for UNICEF Operations

National governments and other United Nations organizations support UNICEF efforts in 161 sites around the world. The United States provides the greatest annual contribution ($248 million in 2000), while combined funds from the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Canada, and Italy ($335 million) add significant governmental support. One-third of UNICEF's resources are received through Private Sector Division partnerships with social organizations, celebrities, and businesses.


The goal of UNICEF is to give every child a brighter future. The organization's pledge, "we will continue the same unwavering support for children that we have maintained," remains, as partners allocate resources for basic childhood needs of food, security, and shelter. The partnerships further support education for all children and enforcement of child labor practices. UNICEF's staff and volunteers must combat the enormous challenges facing children in war-torn countries, where poverty is rampant, as they try to control infection and disease, provide safe food and water, and fight discrimination.

UNICEF Accomplishments Since 1990

During the 1990s, there were many successful efforts by UNICEF to improve health, nutrition , and survival for women and children around the world. In 1990, UNICEF members, who held voting rights, supported the formation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. During 1991, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated efforts to improve the health and nutritional status of pregnant women, mothers with babies, and infants, through the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding program. In response, health centers around the world adopted the "ten steps," and became "baby-friendly" hospitals and birthing centers. By 2002, more than 15,000 sites in 136 counties were educating women and promoting healthful behaviors to improve the nutritional status of babies.

UNICEF in Bam, Iran

In December 2003, the city of Bam in southeastern Iran was hit by an earthquake that measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. It was estimated that 30,000 people were killed and 40,000 others injured. More than 100,000 people were affected, with more than 90 percent of homes heavily damaged or destroyed. Within 48 hours, UNICEF had sent two major shipments of emergency supplies and gone to work to provide safe water and sanitation. The organization created a tracing system utilizing a digital camera to help document missing children and reunite them with their families. Within one month, the first children returned to temporary schools established by UNICEF.

—Paula Kepos

The first International Children's Day of Broadcasting began in 1992 to promote excellence in radio and television programming for children. Since then, more than two thousand media groups have provided wholesome and child-sensitive programs around the world. In 1993, twenty-five years of success with oral rehydration therapy (ORT) was celebrated. ORT provides a simple solution of sugar, salt, and water, and has saved millions of children in developing countries where safe water and sanitary conditions are unavailable. The highlight of 1994 was the Global Girls' Education Programme in which education for young girls was a priority. UNICEF research efforts on the status of young girls began in 1994 with household surveys administered in sixty countries. This provided a baseline for a vast database about the status of health, nutrition, security, and other programs.

During 1995, UNICEF strengthened the initiatives to make issues of gender for women and the impact of war on children less of a problem. UNICEF sought support from nations through a 20/20 initiative—asking them to allocate 20 percent of their budgets for 20 percent of UNICEF's social services programs. By 1996, UNICEF had expanded its programs in AIDS awareness, prevention, and assistance to families and children in need of support for AIDS-related resources, and the Voices of Youth, a website where children can share information and insights on AIDS and other topics of interest, had begun. In 1997, a UNICEF document signed by 123 nations sought to protect children from weapons of destruction, and the International Conference on Child Labour met to support the elimination of employment for children where exploitation or hazardous conditions exist.

UNICEF, with the WHO and others, increased their efforts to address malaria prevention efforts in 1998, and by 1999 had formed a partnership with Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) to supply vaccines against measles, mumps, hepatitis B, diphtheria and other preventable communicable conditions. During 2000 and 2001, the Say Yes for Children program received pledges of financial support from government and private sources in the ongoing effort to fund the improvement of health, education, nutrition, and safety of children.

Programs and Operations of UNICEF

UNICEF and partners worldwide provide programs and oversee operations that have been directed either toward specific causes or generally to improve health, nutrition, security, or other needs. These programs include:

  • The Oneworld Alliance for UNICEF, which is a partnership with airline companies who show in-flight UNICEF videos, collect donations from passengers, and ship emergency supplies.
  • Rotary International supports and funds the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and National Immunization Days, a program of the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
  • The Kiwanis Worldwide Service Project focuses on iodine deficiency disorders. As a result, 70 percent of all households worldwide have iodized salt, a significant step toward improvement of the nutritional and health status of children.
  • Check Out for Children is a program in place in hotels outside of North America where guests are invited to donate $1 to UNICEF. In celebration of the success of this program and the five million dollars contributed since inception, a Give Me Five (for $5 donations) program has been launched in Europe, Africa, India, and the Middle East.
  • The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has partnered with UNICEF to support implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. FIFA projects include the sale of notebooks, t-shirts, backpacks, and other items with FIFA and UNICEF logos that focus on children's rights to education, health care, and play.
  • Six thousand people, many of them children, die every day from infections caused by contaminated water. UNICEF responds to this situation by educating people about water safety and helping people secure their water supplies. [Photograph by Liba Taylor. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]
    Six thousand people, many of them children, die every day from infections caused by contaminated water. UNICEF responds to this situation by educating people about water safety and helping people secure their water supplies.
    [Photograph by Liba Taylor. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]
    • UNICEF greeting card and product sales have accounted for over $1 billion in revenues to support UNICEF programs.
  • Global Movement for Children is a program to assist children in war-torn areas and to protect at-risk children from sexual exploitation and violence.
  • Trick or Treat for UNICEF, on National UNICEF Day (October 31), raises awareness of UNICEF programs and the importance of ongoing support through volunteerism and contributions.

In summary, UNICEF funds programs and provide unique partnerships to eradicate disease, improve the health and nutritional status of children, and to make the world a better place for children to grow and develop. Other efforts to educate girls, improve children's working conditions, and establish housing and security in impoverished and war-torn environments have been addressed and supported. More work is needed, however, as the future of the global community depends, in part, on the health and well-being its children.

SEE ALSO Oral Rehydration Therapy ; World Health Organization (WHO) .

Ruth A. Waibel

Internet Resources

UNICEF. "Annual Report, 2000." Available from <http://www.unicef.org/ar00>

UNICEF. "The Progress of Nations, 2000." Available from <http:www.unicef.org/pon00>

UNICEF. "The State of the World's Children, 2001." Available from <http://www.unicef.org/sowc01>

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