What is Unicef?
Known as Unicef for its acronym in English: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, a program developed within the UN to provide humanitarian support to mothers and children from the developing countries.
Unicef was created on December 11, 1946 in order to meet many of the food, educational and other needs of children surviving World War II, a conflict that left Europe in a state of total devastation. Beginning in 1953, however, its scope spread to the entire world and it was granted the status of a permanent body of the United Nations.
The funding UNICEF relies entirely on is donations from businesses, foundations and governments. Its motto is “For each child” and the work that has earned them awards such as the Nobel Peace Prize (1965) or the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (2006).
A series of world personalities from the world of entertainment and culture have the status of ambassadors of Good Will Unicef, such as the North American actress Emma Watson, the Argentine singer Diego Torres, the Colombian singer and songwriter Shakira or the American actor Danny Glover.
In institutional terms, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is a special organization under the UN Economic and Social Council. Unicef’s first projects were in Eastern Europe, which faced a serious food and drug crisis after World War II.
The Fund’s task is to develop childcare policies and campaigns. The priority is to help low-income children in the least developed countries (like Palestinian children), improve maternal and child care and combat child mortality.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as the basis for the work of Unicef. The document was approved by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989 and came into force two years later. Its 54 articles define both the rights of children and the duties and responsibilities of the State and society. Brazil even incorporated these principles into the 1988 Constitution, a year before they were internationalized.
Although Article 6 of the convention guarantees that “every child has an inalienable right to life”, thousands of children die in conflict each year. Every child has the right to education and health. According to estimates by Unicef and the International Labor Organization, millions of children under the age of 14 are subjected to child labor. Some tens of millions carry out dangerous activities, for example, in fireworks factories and quarries.
The supply of drinking water and sanitary facilities to the entire world population would not cost more than Europeans spend annually on ice cream. More than 2 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities. Half of the 4 billion cases of diarrhea annually are fatal, mainly for children under 5 years old.
Unicef fights this situation with health, nutrition and education programs in more than 100 countries. It works with specialized agencies and NGOs in emergency and rehabilitation services for victims of floods, hunger and conflicts. It is only able to carry out this worldwide work thanks to the generosity of thousands of donors. Governments are not obliged to help UNICEF, but negotiate their contributions annually.
Unicef testifies to one of the biggest human rights paradoxes: it is one of the most regulated areas in international law and at the same time it presents some of the worst indicators.
More than 193 countries work with Unicef through various programs and regional committees, whose principles are based on the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Adolescent. In this way, the organization cares about the health, education, protection and other human rights needs of children, through constant work of data collection, promotion of equality and policies and alliances with local governments to provide food, medical care and clothing for children from endemically poor regions or victims of armed conflict.
Among these tasks are:
- Immunization of child populations through free vaccine campaigns.
- Attention to displaced children and adolescents or victims of armed conflicts.
- Attention to child populations in states of extreme poverty, as in some countries on the African continent.
- Sponsorship of positive initiatives for children or to combat child drug addiction, such as sports or culture.
- Denouncement of child labor, child recruitment or other forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation.