Sixty-nine years ago today, UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) was born.
"Big deal," you might say.
In fact, that would have been my reaction, prior to my visit a few months ago to the United Nations where I heard first-hand what they really did, and quickly realized that they are one, accomplished organization.
To name a few those achievements, from 1990 to 2015, the under 5 mortality rate has decreased by 53 percent (from 12.7 million per year to 5.9 million), improved drinking water sources have risen from 76 percent to 90 percent and the global number of primary-aged children out of school has decreased by 48 percent (104 million to 58 million).
Yes, other organizations have contributed to these numbers, but we can’t argue that UNICEF is one of the most, if not the most, prominent organization in progress for children globally.
And that’s not likely to change in the future.
Here are five unique UNICEF efforts that will no doubt keep their legacy going, and continue to make this world a better place.
1. Assistance to Syrian Child Refugees
UNICEF claims, “Syria is now the world's biggest producer of both internally displaced people and refugees.”
The Syrian refugee crisis is one we’ve been hearing a lot about lately, but what we may not be aware of is the amount of children involved.
There are an estimated 4 million Syrians on the run, 2 million of whom are children. And even more concerning are the 8,000 children who’ve crossed Syrian borders unaccompanied by adults.
There are many problems associated with this, but it’s important to note is the lack of education, shelter and risk of disease these children are facing.
UNICEF is on the ground in Syria working to provide aid in these areas, but they can only do so much.
The reality is, as we’ve seen, these children and refugees need the help of other governments.
UNICEF has actually started a “Demand Care” letter for anyone to send to President Obama to encourage European policymakers to help these children.
2. A Holiday Online Market For Fundraising
UNICEF has partnered with NOVICA for the holiday season to create an online shopping site called UNICEF Market.
Launched for the first time last year, it offers thousands of handcrafted gift items produced in various countries around the world. Each item purchased benefits UNICEF programs such as nutrition, medicine, education, clean water and emergency relief.
Not only does this make Christmas shopping more charitable, it also allows entrepreneurs in rural areas around the world to sell their products to the global market.
My first thought was where is my money actually going?
But UNICEF answered that, too. Charity Navigator ranks UNICEF highly, stating that out of every dollar spent, 90.2 percent goes toward helping children.
If you want to purchase a gift for a child in need, it also has a program called UNICEF Inspired Gifts, where you can purchase items including food packages, educational items, blankets and vaccinations.
Not so unique, but still lovable.
3. Creation of a Soap Opera To Shift Attitudes On Health Issues
UNICEF, in conjunction with various UN organizations, has created a soap opera in Senegal called "That’s Life."
The purpose? Bring awareness to challenges faced by health professional and patients.
The hope is that it will alter viewers’ attitudes toward receiving certain types of healthcare (e.g. vaccinations and birth control).
The first 26 episodes launched in June 2015 and are available to cable subscribers across francophone Africa.
It will be expanded to over 48 countries in 2016, reaching an estimated 160 million viewers.
All I can say is, four-stars to UNICEF for innovation, and if it works, there will be a whole new market for television/film.
4. Use of Technology in Improving Education
We may have the assumption that to improve education in many of these developing countries technology isn’t a viable solution. However, UNICEF has proposed several recent innovation education programs that may prove that incorrect.
For instance, they’ve proposed the use of eLearning modules in Sudan.
The organization will provide community centers in participating villages with tablets (charged by solar power) for children to borrow for completing their primary education courses.
In Peru, UNICEF is also implementing a real-time mobile monitoring system to ensure its resources are being used equally and efficiently across programs. In other words, it will tell them which schools need their help the most.
If anything, these efforts show just how far they’ve come in the progression of their programs.
5. Educating Children on Climate Change
I know, it doesn’t sound very important, but UNICEF’s Unless We Act Now report on how climate change impacts children, made me see it clearly.
This issue that everyone is so gung-ho about is going to impact the children the most.
Especially those in areas that are massively affected by changes in weather (e.g. floods) and don’t have the resources.
There are countries (or should I say presidential candidates) that take it seriously and ones that don’t, but when it comes down to it, if we Millennials don’t do something about it, the younger generations will have to.
UNICEF is making the effort to include climate change awareness in their educational programs.
The more the children know and understand, the more they cannot only save others, but save themselves by preventing what they can and preparing for what they can’t.
The world is constantly changing, and I think sometimes we forget we are responsible for that -- in good ways (e.g. technology) and in bad (e.g. pollution).
Organizations like UNICEF make a lot of those good changes, and at least try to prevent the bad ones.
So, happy birthday UNICEF, but more importantly…