Lebanon's Water SystemAmid an escalating economic crisis, Lebanon finds itself in an incredibly vulnerable position. According to the United Nations, Lebanon’s water system is at critical risk of total failure. About 71% of the country’s population is at risk of losing water as the public water system is reportedly “on life support.” UNICEF emphasizes the need for emergency action and stands by to offer crucial support. Forecasts warn of an increase in disease due to lack of sanitation as well as the closure of essential facilities.

The Cause of the Water System Collapse

For nearly a year now, Lebanon has existed without a government, according to CNN. Furthermore, the World Bank describes Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the three worst economic disasters since the mid-19th century. The country’s GDP per capita has plummeted by about 40% and its currency has lost more than 90% of its value since late 2019. As a result, about half the population has slipped below the poverty line.

Yukie Mokuo, a UNICEF representative in Lebanon, tells UNICEF that Lebanon’s water system difficulties due to the economic collapse raise three main issues. First, she emphasized the importance of adequately funding routine maintenance of the public water system, which Lebanon cannot sustain.  Second, the problem of non-revenue water, or water that has been lost before it could reach consumers, remains. Last, the state of the power grid and the growing cost of fuel is not positive.

Mokuo also adds that those struggling to get by during the economic crisis will be the most vulnerable to the water system’s collapse. People would have to make hard choices when it comes to sanitation, hygiene and basic water needs.

The Risk and the Need

Mokuo and UNICEF also warn that, without urgent action, essential public facilities will be rendered unable to function. Among the four million people affected, children stand to risk the most. Children’s health and hygiene would take a fall in the wake of such a crisis since the immediate effects would impact overall public health. The country would see an increase in diseases without effective sanitation. In particular, women and young girls would face specific challenges “to their personal hygiene, safety and dignity without access to safe sanitation,” according to Mokuo.

UNICEF requires $40 million a year to adequately support Lebanon’s water system. The fund would work to address supply and maintain adequate levels of clean water for more than four million people. The mission would aim to secure the “minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance necessary.” This would enable the continued functioning of various key systems while safeguarding access and ensuring public operation.

A Plea for Lebanon

Mokuo affirms the importance of the necessary funding to support UNICEF’s mission in addressing Lebanon’s water system collapse. She says, “[W]e will remain steadfast in our support to communities as resources permit, but this alarming situation requires immediate and sustained funding.” She added, “UNICEF stands ready to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for children and families at this critical time for Lebanon.” As such, UNICEF calls “for the urgent restoration of the power supply — the only solution to keep water services running.” In the meanwhile, UNICEF continues with COVID-19 relief efforts in Lebanon, providing “life-saving services” and supporting the vaccine rollout.

Though the situation remains dire, the commitment of UNICEF signals genuine support that Lebanon can rely on. In an imperfect, developing situation, UNICEF’s focus provides hope that even in the worst case, help stands ready.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

7 FundDavid Beckham is a father, former professional soccer player, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ambassador and a philanthropist. While Beckham played for the Manchester United Football Club he was also supporting UNICEF. In 2005, Beckham was appointed as the new ambassador for UNICEF. The former soccer player is supporting and advocating for the well-being of children globally. In 2015, to commemorate 10 years of supporting UNICEF, UNICEF and Beckham partnered to start the 7 Fund.

The 7 Fund

The 7 Fund aims to empower vulnerable children in nations across the world, including Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador, by addressing issues such as “bullying, violence, child marriage and missed education.” Within the initial three years of its establishment, the 7 Fund had already made a significant difference in children’s lives.

Child Marriage in Nepal

According to the 7 Fund, “Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia.” Girls who marry young often drop out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to break cycles of poverty. The 7 Fund tackles child marriage in Nepal by ensuring that girls receive the support needed to stay in school or return to school to fulfill their full potential. In addition to helping “build life skills” for both boys and girls, the organization also supports the provision of mental health services for these children. Importantly, the 7 Fund educates parents and communities at large on the detrimental impacts of child marriage in order to reduce its prevalence.

The Story of Rashida Khatun

On its website, the 7 Fund showcases the inspiring story of Rashida Khatun, a 14-year-old girl in Nepal. Child marriage is common in Khatun’s community. Despite her yearning to receive an education, she could not due to her family’s impoverished circumstances. Her parents prioritized the education of her three brothers while she and her sisters had to shoulder household chores. Her four older sisters were “married as teenagers” and she was next in line.

Khatun’s world changed when she joined a “UNICEF-supported non-formal education program for girls” in her area, with permission from her father. The nine-month-long Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) program focused on empowering “out-of-school adolescent girls by giving them basic numeracy and literacy lessons and useful life skills.” Khatun told UNICEF Nepal that when she initially started the classes, she was not aware “that children had rights, or that child marriage was a violation of those rights or that it was actually illegal.”

Through the GATE program, Khatun was educated about the dangers of child marriage and decided against it. Khatun and a GATE class facilitator eventually managed to convince her parents to cancel her marriage, allowing her to continue to pursue an education that would one day help her rise out of poverty. The story of Khatun is an illustration of the importance of 7 Fund efforts to address child marriage in Nepal. Roughly 10,000 Nepali girls are now part of “a return to school” program.

Tackling Malnutrition in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, one out of 13 children dies before reaching the age of 5, mostly due to malnutrition. The 7 Fund looks to reduce child malnutrition in Papua New Guinea through lifesaving programs. In a 2015 press release by UNICEF, Beckham says, “I feel very proud to be in Papua New Guinea to see for the first time how the money raised is helping to keep children healthy and safe, by providing life-saving therapeutic food for children suffering from malnutrition.”

Addressing Bullying in Indonesia

The 7 Fund acknowledges that the effects of bullying can stay with an individual for life. With one in five Indonesian children between 13 and 15 experiencing bullying, the issue is important to address as bullying diminishes self-esteem and negatively impacts mental health. The 7 Fund is supporting anti-bullying initiatives in Indonesian schools, focusing on “training teachers and helping schools put safeguarding plans in place, helping to reduce rates of school dropout and child marriage and creating a safer school environment to enable children to thrive.” Due to these efforts, incidences of bullying have reduced by almost a third.

Prioritizing Girls’ Education in Uganda

Within Uganda, nearly 60% of the girls are unable to go to secondary school due to violence in school and pressure to stay home to help manage the household. To ensure girls stay in or return to school, the 7 Fund is supporting “teacher training and creating protection systems to track and report violence.” The Fund is also focusing on educating parents and communities on the lifelong benefits of girls’ education for both the girls and their families.

Beckham’s 7 Fund is a prime example of using a celebrity platform to make a difference. Overall, the 7 Fund protects and empowers children with the knowledge and tools to rise out of poverty.

– Carolina Reyes 
Photo: Flickr

Haiti-United States RelationshipIn 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, yet it took until 1862 for the U.S. to recognize Haiti as a nation. In the 19th century, U.S. military forces began a 19-year military intervention in Haiti that lasted until 1934. Despite being the “second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States,” Haiti has struggled to maintain a consistent and reliable democracy, according to the Office of the Historian. The Haiti-United States relationship has significantly strengthened over time, with the United States as a regular donor to Haiti. In an already unstable nation, the recent assassination of Haitian President Moïse in July 2021 has led to further instability in the nation, prompting urgent humanitarian assistance.

Contemporary Haiti-US Economic Relations

Following the 2010 earthquake that paralyzed Haiti, the United States provided more than $5 billion worth of aid aimed at supporting “longer-term recover, reconstruction and development programs,” according to the U.S. State Department. In the aftermath of the earthquake, U.S. economic efforts have allowed for:

  • The creation of close to 14,000 job opportunities in the apparel industry for local Haitians.
  • About 70,000 farmers were able to improve their crop yields with the introduction of “improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and other technologies.”
  • A stronger police force that has expanded to more than 15,300 members.
  • Progress in “child nutrition and mortality, improved access to maternal healthcare and the containment of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
  • Greater access to basic healthcare services in more than 160 health centers across Haiti.

As “Haiti’s largest trading partner,” the U.S. is involved in Haitian sectors such as “banks, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies” as well as “U.S.-owned assembly plants,” according to the U.S. State Department. Tourism, medical supplies and equipment, modernization of Haitian infrastructure and clothing production are areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Despite the successes of the Haiti-United States relationship, the World Bank estimates that, in 2020, almost 60% of the Haitian population lived in poverty. These statistics make Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Political Unrest in Haiti

A shift from communism to democracy in Haiti has the ability to strengthen the Haiti-United States relationship and provide economic stability. Political and civil unrest has been ongoing since July 2018 and “violent protests” in the nation exacerbate Haiti’s plethora of issues. Among other issues, a growing unemployment rate, inflation rising to 20% and the Haitian currency depreciating by 30%, contribute to an ailing nation. Furthermore, the nation experiences regular fuel shortages and businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Due to the high poverty rate, about 33% of the population faces “crisis- or emergency-level food insecurity.”

While Haiti showed signs of promise when it held a democratic presidential election in 2017,  its “local and parliamentary elections” that were scheduled for October 2019 did not occur. Because democracy in Haiti is not consistent, this leads to nationwide instability and unrest.

The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his wife, Martine, were attacked in their residence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The president was killed in the attack and his wife was severely injured but did not suffer any fatal wounds.

Moïse’s presidency, which began in February 2017 after winning an annulled 2015 election and a second election in 2016, “was marked by controversy.” His appointment sparked protests throughout the country, with citizens citing “economic underperformance and corruption” as the reason. Since the beginning of 2020, Moïse ruled by decree and allegedly attempted to grant himself and close confidants “immunity from prosecution” on several occasions. In 2020, human rights abuses connected to gang violence caused two members of Moïse’s government to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

US Solidarity and Support

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken on the future of the Haiti-United States relationship following Moïse’s assassination. Recently, Biden released a statement of mourning over Moïse’s assassination and uncertainty about the future of Haiti. “We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” says Biden.

The instability in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination leaves the future of the Haiti-United States relationship in question. However, by committing to democracy, the Haitian government can work toward a stronger economic partnership between the two nations.

International Aid to Haiti

UNICEF is working to provide aid to more than 1.5 million Haitian people experiencing “constrained access to clean water, health and nutrition, disrupted education and protection services” amid the political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, UNICEF reported that “Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where not a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been received.”

To address this, “UNICEF will support the distribution, transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines” to improve the vaccine rollout. Starting three years ago, UNICEF has provided 920 solar-operated fridges in Haiti, “to strengthen the cold chain, mainly in remote areas where electricity is unreliable.” Today, 96% of Haiti’s health centers possess solar fridges for medicinal cold storage.

By mitigating Haiti’s domestic hardships, there is greater hope for a stronger Haiti-United States relationship in the future. The efforts of global humanitarian organizations provide a glimmer of hope in a tumultuous political landscape.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Afro Fem CodersAs a recent Mastercard Foundation Scholar and computer science master’s graduate at UC Berkley, Gloria Tumushabe is acutely aware of the inequality between men and women in computer programming, especially in her home country of Uganda. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, specifically in computer programming where “less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.” To address the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ education in Uganda, Tumushabe launched Afro Fem Coders: a remote program teaching young Ugandan women how to code.

COVID-19 and Heightened Gender Inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened education inequality for Ugandan girls. Once the pandemic hit, many students had to take a step back in their education due to school closures, economic hardships and health issues. The negative repercussions of COVID-19 disproportionately impact girls and women. The Malala Fund found that “marginalized girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic.”

Afro Fem Coders

Afro Fem Coders began with Tumushabe spreading the word that she would teach Ugandan girls how to code. Once girls started expressing interest in the program, Tumushabe used part of her scholarship stipend to fund the girls’ access to laptops and the internet. Afro Fem Coders gained support through a GoFundMe and now includes a mentorship program with leaders from Silicon Valley.

The program aims to “create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in an environment that makes them feel safe, empowered and inspired.” UNICEF asserts that a feeling of safety and empowerment is important for girls to develop digital skills, especially in spaces where gender norms undermine girls’ aspirations to pursue STEM careers.

Eight girls are currently enrolled in the program, with many of them aspiring to be engineers. Student Martha Toni Atwiine endeavors “to build technology for differently-abled people and create more inclusive technology.” Margaret Tendo hopes to “use her computer science knowledge to create applications that create safe travel options for women around the country.”

Revitalizing the Economy Through Women in STEM

Not only do programs like Afro Fem Coders dismantle gendered barriers to opportunity and education but they also tap into major growth opportunities. If empowered young women enter STEM fields in Uganda, they have the chance to transform their nation into a space of growth and opportunity, harnessing the power of technology within the economic sphere.

Coupled with economic empowerment, technological advancement provides new opportunities for careers and breakthroughs that can reduce poverty in a country. UNICEF’s report on girls’ STEM education expresses that “STEM education also has the potential to contribute to personal empowerment, transformation of communities and nations and building economies for the future.”

“The more of us women in this space, the better,” Tumushabe told Berkeley. Overall, the representation of young women in fields such as computer programming actively benefits the economy and combats global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Unsplash

Soccer Stars and Celebrities Join Forces in the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021The biggest charity soccer match in the world is back with another star-studded cast of players. Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 has become a fixture for soccer fans to look forward to. Fans can watch old legends square off against celebrities — all for a good cause. This year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF hopes to reach a wider audience than ever before in order to aid in the recovery to COVID-19.

The Beginning of Soccer Aid for UNICEF

Dating back 15 years ago, singer Robbie Williams partnered with UNICEF for the first-ever Soccer Aid for UNICEF charity match, and now it has taken off as an annual tradition and great fundraiser for UNICEF. Each year an English team faces an international team in an iconic stadium where supporters can purchase tickets or watch live at home. The game has raised almost £50 million since it first began in 2006. Last year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF raised more than £9 million, breaking records for the charity match, and this year it hopes to go even higher.

This year, spectators can look forward to watching legends like Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra, Fara Williams, Roberto Carlos and all-time leading goal scorer for England, Wayne Rooney, take the pitch. Rooney said, “Soccer Aid for UNICEF has been a massive force for good since it started back in 2006 and I know the public will support us again this year.” These elite players will be alongside plenty of star power like Usain Bolt, Olly Murs, Paddy McGuiness, Tom Grennan and more suiting up for the exhibition.

Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

For the first time ever, The Etihad Stadium, home to league winners Manchester City, will host the event. UNICEF U.K. Ambassador Dermot O’Leary is looking forward to the match, saying: “The game is going to be incredible this year… The money we raise really will make a huge difference to children’s lives everywhere… Having recently become a UNICEF UK Ambassador myself, I know how much your money and your support can help children in really tough situations be able to just be children again.” She added that “the COVID-19 crisis is making life for children in the world’s poorest countries even harder, so let’s bring play back!”

This year the charity match will have a whole week of fundraising activities leading up to the big day. The funds raised this year will go toward COVID-19 recovery and vaccination efforts. UNICEF has set its most ambitious goal yet with the hope of providing two billion vaccines for frontline workers and teachers around the world. Soccer Aid for UNICEF notes: “Children worldwide won’t be safe until everyone they rely on is safe.” The goal for the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 is to get children back in school and back to receiving the health care and nutritional services they need.

When stars and sporting legends align to fight global poverty, good things happen! We can look forward to more good thanks to Soccer Aid for UNICEF.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Sierra LeoneAs the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of protecting vulnerable people from human trafficking, the need for a global solution has never been greater. Preliminary research shows that Sierra Leone acts mainly as a country of origin from which traffickers move individuals; this refers to victims trafficked within the country and abroad. Traffickers traffick both adults and children from Sierra Leone for a range of different purposes, including prostitution, labor, service as child soldiers and adoption. The government of Sierra Leone does not fully meet the minimum criteria for the prevention of human trafficking, but it demonstrates increasing efforts to do so.

Trafficking as an “Emerging” Issue in Sierra Leone

Civil society groups regularly comment that trafficking is “an emerging issue” that has existed in Sierra Leone for a long time, but now has a fresh identity as a form of exploitation. Traffickers move a large proportion of Sierra Leoneans internally from mostly rural areas to cities and towns. This form of trafficking impacts a significant amount of children who experience exploitation for sexual or labor purposes.

However, the population generally did not have access to knowledge about internal trafficking. Many people understood this term only in a very limited sense involving the abduction of children for adoption abroad. Overall, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what did and did not constitute trafficking. As an emerging issue, there is an urgent need to clarify the subject among civil society, the government and the population. This will require comprehensive awareness-raising and sensitization activities, as well as technical training. Addressing trafficking problems efficiently can help people make wise decisions about counter-trafficking interventions. Child protection agencies across the globe will therefore benefit from the successes and lessons learned from counter-trafficking efforts.

Sierra Leone as a Source Country

Information collected from various destination countries reveals that traffickers have trafficked Sierra Leoneans abroad for different forms of exploitation. Much trafficking to the E.U. appears to be for prostitution, as data shows that all assisted trafficked persons in the Netherlands were working in the sex industry. In the Middle East, Lebanon underwent identification as a key destination for Sierra Leonean children. Traffickers generally recruited them with promises of education or well-paid jobs. However, in reality, these children worked as domestic workers and often experienced sexual exploitation from their employers. Available data suggests that traffickers trafficked children to West Africa for working in plantations in Guinea and on the Ivory Coast, begging, committing petty crimes and prostitution. The presence of Sierra Leonean unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in various destination countries is arguably a signal of trafficking risk.

It is important to be aware of the extent to which human trafficking is an issue and how trafficking cases occur. Baseline information that one can use to evaluate the further growth of the problem, as well as the effectiveness of the policies and programs in place to tackle trafficking must also emerge. More in-depth qualitative research is necessary to understand the nature of trafficking in the country, including the recruitment process, the routes and destinations, victim profiles and the forms of exploitation.

Government Action

The government has demonstrated substantial efforts to prevent human trafficking; therefore, Sierra Leone has received an upgrade to Tier 2. These efforts included the increase in investigations and prosecutions, the arrest of traffickers for the first time in 15 years, increased training for trafficking officials, the commitment of an NGO center to the development of victims’ shelters and the establishment of anti-trafficking task forces at the district level.

However, the government still did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Shelter and services, especially for male trafficking victims, remained inadequate. Law enforcement did not investigate past reports of corruption and complicity which impeded law enforcement efforts. Sierra Leoneans remained susceptible to traffickers as labor migrants. The government had to rely heavily on NGOs and private shelters, including UNICEF — a large advocate against child trafficking in Sierra Leone.

Recommendations to Stop Human Trafficking in Sierra Leone

The key to stopping and addressing human trafficking in Sierra Leone will be the implementation of anti-trafficking legislation. The police must learn about the recent trafficking law and its required elements, and the judiciary must receive training regarding how to enforce the law. Enforcement of policies and legislation on child protection needs to undergo urgent development. The porous nature of the borders of Sierra Leone requires attention in order to tackle trafficking and other forms of crime. Moreover, awareness-raising campaigns and income-generating programs must target rural areas that many trafficked children originate from. While human trafficking in Sierre Leone is a serious issue, the increased counter-trafficking efforts are a step in the right direction.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

The Path to Poverty Reduction in Tanzania
On the East African coast, Tanzania is home to many tourist attractions for visitors from around the world, such as beautiful beaches, trees and nature. However, Tanzania is still an impoverished country in Africa. Thankfully, developments are emerging in relation to poverty reduction in Tanzania.

The Economy in Tanzania

It is not uncommon for the economy of impoverished countries to fluctuate. At times, foreign aid helps boost the economy, and when foreign aid is low, the economic outlook is less than positive. Much of Tanzania’s economic development and exportable resources relate to the agricultural trade. Most Tanzanians live in rural areas that make it simple for them to grow crops. Agriculture accounts for approximately 28% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product or GDP, and 80% of the country’s labor force has employment in the agricultural industry. Estimates have determined that Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies with a 6.3% increase in national GDP between 2007 and 2017.

Poverty in Tanzania

Amid the beauty and natural scenery which attracts millions of tourists annually, approximately 49% of Tanzanians live in poverty. In 2018, approximately 17 million people in Tanzania lived in poverty, living below the international poverty line—those who make less than $1.90 a day.

In spite of this, Tanzania has recorded an improvement in economic growth in the past decade. According to The World Bank, Tanzania’s poverty levels decreased by approximately 8% over the course of a decade. Most of this improvement occurred in rural areas, which were initially more poverty-stricken than urban areas.

Education in Tanzania

In Tanzania, pre-primary, primary, secondary ordinary, secondary advanced and university education exist. According to UNICEF, Tanzania has reached almost universal access to primary education. However, about 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 13 are currently not in school, leaving only 3.2% of children enrolled. The quality of education is also an important factor at play. Some children do not always learn all that they may need in a classroom, as a result of the student-to-teacher ratio being approximately 131:1. Having a large number of students per classroom and attempting to equally divide attention between students are not ideal for teachers.

However, UNICEF is making an effort to help reduce the number of children that are out of school in Tanzania. UNICEF’s “For Every Child” initiative is also tackling issues on a policy level, supporting policies that improve the root factors of low enrollment, particularly for girls and children with disabilities. UNICEF is training teachers on how to support vulnerable youth and create alternate learning methods for children who struggle to remain in school. Some of the educational goals the organization aims to have met by 2021 are to improve the delivery of quality education, to improve learning strategies and to help children gain access to education.

Looking Ahead

Despite being a relatively impoverished nation, the country has worked toward poverty reduction in Tanzania throughout the years and is continuing to do so. Maintaining economic growth in the agriculture sector and improving child education are important factors in helping Tanzania build a brighter future for its citizens. Tanzania is on a path to poverty reduction and structural improvement.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Working With UNICEF
The United Nations created the United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in December 1946. It helped children in countries that WW2 impacted. In 1950, UNICEF began advocating for both children’s and women’s rights. It also works toward the protection, safety and health of developing countries. In 1953, UNICEF shortened its name to The United Nations Children’s Fund. UNICEF works in over 190 countries to provide vaccines, safe water, sanitation, education and skill-building. UNICEF has a program for celebrities and public figures called UNICEF Ambassadors. Ambassadors use their fame and platform to fundraise and raise awareness for children’s rights and advocacy. Each ambassador has its own motive and mission. Here are five celebrities working with UNICEF.

Selena Gomez

American actress and singer Selena Gomez began working with UNICEF in 2009. Gomez started as a “trick or treat UNICEF” nation’s spokesperson in 2010, helping raise $4 million. In 2011, Gomez took part in UNICEF’s 12 Days for UNICEF. This was a blog campaign focused on “the gift of giving back.” Its goal was to raise funds and awareness about the objectives of UNICEF. She also joined UNICEF’s Tap Project by bottling tap water from her home. Additionally, she posted public service announcements on social media for UNICEF’s clean water program.

Gomez took to Facebook and Twitter to promote “Sound The Alarm” in 2012. “Sound The Alarm” is an international campaign that raised funds for the child nutrition crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. Later that year, she learned about the importance of social media in mobilizing and educating young people and made a public service announcement encouraging everyone to donate $10 via text to the emergency relief efforts campaign for the Sahel Region of Africa. Gomez also worked with and supported George Harrison’s FUND for UNICEF month of giving in 2011, held a charity concert benefiting UNICEF that raised over $200,000 in 2012 and visited Chile, Gana and Nepal with UNICEF.

Amelie Zibler

Amelie Zibler is just one of the many celebrities working with UNICEF. Zibler is famous for being a social media influencer on Tik Tok and Instagram and is a UNICEF Young Ambassador. Christina Zibler introduced Amelie, her daughter, to the NGO. Christina Zibler is a UNICEF Ambassador and CEO of “Jouer Cosmetics.” She uses her platform to raise awareness of current events and Middle Eastern politics. Zibler is just beginning her work with UNICEF.

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom’s involvement with UNICEF dates back to 2007. He became a Goodwill Ambassador in 2009 when Bloom became highly involved with UNICEF. Bloom traveled to Mozambique with UNICEF in 2019 to meet with kids who experienced displacement from Cyclone Idai.

In 2018, Bloom traveled to Bangladesh with UNICEF to film the Netflix series “Tales by Light,” a documentary following children working in slums. Boko Haram violence forced hundreds of thousands of children out of their homes. Bloom traveled to South East Niger in 2017 to meet with the children. In 2016, Bloom went with UNICEF to Ukraine to increase awareness about the global education crisis for children in emergencies. Bloom also went with UNICEF to Jordan to meet with Syrian refugees in 2014. Additionally, Bloom traveled to Nepal in 2007 and 2008 to view water and sanitation projects.

Sofia Carson

UNICEF recently announced its newest national ambassador, Sofia Carson, in October 2020. Carson is a singer, activist and actress. She has worked with UNICEF since 2017. She specifically focuses on girls’ empowerment and protection by using her social media platform. Her platform educates her followers and spreads awareness regarding protecting young women. In 2019, Carson urged Congress to pass the Keeping Girls in School Act, which passed in The House of Representatives in 2020. Carson traveled with UNICEF to Recife, Brazil in 2019 to meet with teenagers and children to see UNICEF’s work, mission and dedication in person.

BTS

Korean boy band BTS and its label Big Hit Entertainment partnered with UNICEF in 2017 by creating the LOVE MYSELF campaign. The campaign aimed to end global sexual, domestic and school violence for children and teenagers. BTS also created a LOVE MYSELF fundraiser that raised $2.9 million in addition to putting out a song called “Answer: Love Myself.” BTS continues to spread the message of sharing love and making the world a better and safer place for all children and teenagers. In March 2021, BTS renewed its “Love Myself” campaign with UNICEF and donated $1 million to continue to end global violence and promote self-love.

Celebrities and public figures have raised millions of dollars for UNICEF. They used their large social media platforms to raise awareness. Besides these five, there are many more celebrities working with UNICEF.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

Band Members from BTS who renewed LOVE MYSELF campaignGrammy-nominated, South Korean group, BTS recently announced the renewal of their partnership with UNICEF and their LOVE MYSELF campaign, which was first introduced on November 1, 2017. Originally, BTS used the partnership to sponsor UNICEF’s #ENDViolence campaign that sought to ensure safety for children everywhere in the world. UNICEF and BTS raised awareness for the recurrent issues of sexual assault and domestic violence for teens and children through the #ENDViolence and BTS’s LOVE MYSELF campaign.

Working with UNICEF

As the years went by, BTS hosted UNICEF booths around the world to educate the public about violence against children. The group also held a world tour under the campaign’s name. Their booth in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium was especially impactful and gathered the largest crowd in UNICEF’s event history. This places in perspective BTS’s critical role in assisting UNICEF in its goal of protecting children’s rights, especially children in poverty, across the world. BTS even took their influence to the United Nations, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in New York where they shared their own experiences and the importance of self-love, stating, “no matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”

Renewing the UNICEF Partnership

As of March 2021, through an announcement video on their Youtube channel, BTS renewed their commitment to the cause, donating $1 million to UNICEF, as well as profits from the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s merchandise and a portion of the proceeds from their album sales of the same name. Since 2017, this partnership has raised $2.98 million for UNICEF’s global mission and the hashtag #BTSLoveMyself has been mentioned more than 11,800,000 times, showing significant impact and success in spreading awareness.

In their announcement video, the BTS members shared the importance of their campaign and partnership, making it clear they value the UNICEF partnership and the issues the humanitarian organization stands for. V, one of the beloved band members, said “LOVE MYSELF starts with a message to love yourself, but ultimately it’s a message of loving each other and loving everyone.” J-hope added his heartfelt comment, “If our campaign just gives people the chance to think about how they can love themselves and share love to others, I think that will have a great impact.”

LOVE MYSELF Campaign Amid COVID-19

With COVID-19 still affecting our daily lives, the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s renewal is especially significant. COVID-19 has a negative impact on children across the world. Approximately 168 million schoolchildren were home as a result of school closures, with one in three being unable to access remote learning through the pandemic. Furthermore, in November 2020, UNICEF estimated that the number of children living in poverty-stricken households would increase by 140 million by the end of 2020. Supportive and successful campaigns like LOVE MYSELF are crucial during these challenging times.

As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “COVID-19 is taking an enormous toll on all our lives and emotional well-being… Through their music and messages, BTS has said to their global audience, ‘You are not alone. This is a difficult time for all of us. And together, with love and kindness, we will get through it.’”

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Way to Support Albania
Since the beginning of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in Albania increased from 12.33% to 12.81%. As thousands of Albanian people have entered poverty, UNICEF Albania and other humanitarian organizations are leading the way to support Albania during these trying times.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Albania started its COVID-19 response on March 9, 2020, by helping the Regional Local Democracy Programme (ReLOaD). The ReLOaD program helps update projects that deliver hygiene packages to vulnerable households. It also supports Albanian farmers with seeds and Albanian children with online learning materials. Support has reached 11 areas from Tirana to Lezhë, Albania. The UNDP even created an International Romani Day campaign where approximately 1,150 Albanian households received food and hygiene packages in April 2020.

UNICEF Albania

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Albania works to protect child rights with government and organization partners. Through programs supporting social and child protection, education and early childhood development, UNICEF Albania has three priorities: respecting child rights while implementing social inclusion through maintaining family access to the Albanian justice system, reforming the social care system and keeping children in school with NGO support.

In April 2020 and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF Albania supported a child protection organization statement about how thousands of children can receive protection from violence. This can occur through phone helplines, temporary shelters and professional workforces in Albania. In response to the call to action, child protection helplines underwent initiation in June 2020 through UNICEF and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPIHA) support.

Educational Support in Albania

World Vision Albania and Kosovo Education and Youth Technical Advisor Brisida Jahaj told The Borgen Project that, “There was a huge challenge with families in poorer households.” This is because the families do not have the IT equipment or the internet for children to continue their education in Albania. The Ministry of Education in Albania found that 10,000 children lost educational resources over COVID-19.

Regarding education, UNICEF Albania has partnered and supported the Akademi.al online learning platform since 2019. Plans intend to implement it online and on television for all students by 2021. Funding from UNICEF and support from the Ministry of Education in Albania gave Akademi.al the opportunity to put approximately 1,100 lessons online for students taking Matura exams in Albania. Jahaj describes the platform as a “backup plan that if we go into the third level scenario,” wherein Albanian schools shut down in 2021.

In August 2020, UNICEF Albania worked to combat poverty due to COVID-19 by initiating its first Albanian cash transfer program to approximately 1,700 vulnerable families in Shkodër, Korçë and Durrës, Albania.

UNICEF Albania and the World Health Organization (WHO) also established an online training program to teach professionals about Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and how to implement support to vulnerable populations during emergencies from May to July 2020. The eight module training course helps professionals master how to support mental health and psychosocial issues during emergencies. Approximately 230 frontline professionals obtained certification by September 2020.

Red Cross and World Vision

Albania experienced a series of earthquakes on November 26, 2019, which impacted approximately 200,000 Albanians. The Albania Red Cross responded to the earthquakes by sending 160 volunteers and providing 4,500 shelter relief packages to families who lost homes. The Albanian Red Cross received a 2020 Coca-Cola Company $100,000 grant in the wake of the pandemic to give community food aid and medical equipment to Albanian hospitals.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society partnered with the Albanian Red Cross to provide food package relief to 700 vulnerable families as a way to support Albania. Following the initial response, the Albanian Red Cross collaborated with Better Shelter. A total of 52 Better Shelters underwent construction in Durrës, Krujë, Laç, Shijak and Tirana, Albania, while home reconstruction continues through 2021.

World Vision Albania also helped with the earthquake response in Durrës, Lezhë, Kamëz and Kurbin, Albania by giving food and hygiene aid to 1,019 families and materials to help 27 families with home reconstruction. Jahaj told The Borgen Project that food and hygiene aid will continue in 2021 as World Vision and other humanitarian organizations including Save the Children and UNICEF provide “a lot of the masks and hand sanitizers for the schools” in Albania.

Where is Albania Now?

As of 2021, several humanitarian organizations are working to protect children and vulnerable individuals from the impact of the Albanian earthquakes and COVID-19 on the ground and online. Jahaj explained how World Vision Albania utilizes the Building Secure Livelihoods economic development program to help alleviate poverty while helping parents provide for their children from 2019 until 2023.

On all fronts, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and the Albanian Red Cross responded to Albanian communities. By providing everything from medical care, earthquake shelter, child protection and online learning directly to families, these organizations have found a way to support Albania. As of January 2021, humanitarian organizations continue to work on home reconstruction, mental health support and flood response. Furthermore, Albania acquired 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to distribute in 2021.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr