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What UNICEF Stands For

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a program dedicated to providing developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries as well as supporting humanitarian efforts globally. UNICEF operates in over 190 countries in an effort to protect and save children’s lives.

How UNICEF Works

UNICEF receives its funding through donations from government entities around the globe as well as private donors. Of these funds, government entities are responsible for two-thirds of the organization’s resources. UNICEF stands for transparency. It reports that of the donations it receives, nearly 92 percent is distributed to relief programs.

UNICEF was founded in 1946 in an effort to help war-torn children in the many countries affected by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF dropped the words International and Emergency from its title in an effort to extend its reach to children in need in developing countries.

What UNICEF Stands For

Today, in cooperation with governments and NGOs, UNICEF stands for providing health care to children, promoting children’s rights and providing immunizations, adequate nutrition, safe food and water as well as basic education. UNICEF’s ultimate goal is to ensure that no child ever goes hungry, thirsty, dies prematurely or is bought, sold or otherwise victimized. In order to achieve this, UNICEF works with families in need and helps ensure adoption policies are in accordance with the best and most ethical practices today.

UNICEF stands for transparency in the nonprofit sector. It receives high praises from many watchdogs for its monetary transparency policies. Of every dollar spent, 90 cents go to children’s efforts, seven cents go toward fundraising efforts and three cents go toward overhead and administrative costs. As well as being transparent, UNICEF excels at working with other agencies and private businesses to fight for children’s rights.

UNICEF’s Partnership with Google

UNICEF works with companies like Google to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Most recently, UNICEF has worked with Google to help aid children and families affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

As well as emergency aid, UNICEF and Google collaborate to support the annual flu shot campaign provided by UNICEF. This collaboration has raised over $600,000 toward UNICEF’s immunization program.

In 2016, Google helped UNICEF by donating $1 million to help fight the spread of the Zika virus. Google worked with UNICEF to build a program which tracked the anticipated outbreak of the virus and developed technology that is applicable to not only the Zika virus but other virus outbreaks in the future. With Google’s help, UNICEF helped prevent the spread of the Zika virus and saved the lives of many children and families around the world.

UNICEF is a program with the noble intentions of promoting children’s health and happiness around the globe. Many of the programs provided by UNICEF have helped greatly in reducing the abuse of children in over 190 countries. With its clear mission of transparency, UNICEF succeeds in providing aid to children and families in need. With the help of NGOs and companies like Google, UNICEF is set to continue its story of success in the future.

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

facts about child soldiers
Although improvements have been made to end the use of child soldiers, it is believed that close to 300,000 child soldiers are still being recruited and forced into war across the world today. Child soldiers are children under the age of 18, some even as young as seven years of age, who are used for any purpose in a military or armed group. Child soldiers can act as cooks, messengers, informants, soldiers, suicide bombers or even sex slaves.

Why do people use child soldiers? Armed forces can manipulate children easily, they do not eat very much food, and they do not have to be paid. Soldiers take advantage of this and use children as pawns in their dangerous battles.

 

10 Child Soldier Facts

 

  1. Forty percent of the world’s armed forces use child soldiers.
  2. Though child soldiers are often associated with African conflicts, they have been used throughout history in armies all over the world.
  3. Children who are poor or have little access to education have a higher chance of being forcibly recruited.
  4. Some children choose to enter the military to escape poverty or because they believe they will be offered safety and security by doing so.
  5. Sometimes, as part of their recruitment, child soldiers are forced to kill family members or neighbors to desensitize them and make it so the children cannot go back to their homes and communities.
  6. Children are often used to man checkpoints when there is no active combat taking place. The soldiers will stand several meters back so if anyone starts to fire a weapon, the child soldiers will be the first ones to get hit.
  7. Girl soldiers are often used as “wives” and are sexually abused. Human Rights Watch has reported girl soldiers being impregnated by their commanders and having to fight with their child strapped to their backs.
  8. Child soldiers are known to be fighting in at least 14 countries, including Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Thailand.
  9. If child soldiers are released, they often lack basic survival skills because they were supplied food and shelter in battle. This makes it difficult for them to survive if and when they become free.
  10. When child soldiers are released, many are shunned and given little if any support to reintegrate into their communities. If there is a lack of rehabilitation support, children are frequently recruited back into the military.

These are only a few of the most disturbing facts about child soldiers. Children from all around the world are ripped from their youth and thrown into a merciless world of battle. In order to help these children return to a normal life, UNICEF has established rehabilitation centers in current and former conflict areas. The support these centers provide is crucial to healing former child soldiers and reintegrating them into their communities. This work combined with international pressure to end the practice can make these facts about child soldiers part of the past instead of the present.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Zade Dirani becomes a UNICEF Ambassador
Zade Dirani recently became the Regional UNICEF Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa. The famous Jordanian pianist is continuing on with his steadfast involvement in advocacy and charity work. Dirani joins the ranks of other ambassadors like Egyptian actor, Mahmoud Kabil and Lebanese entertainer, Nancy Ajram.

Previously, as the founder of the Zade Foundation for International Peace and Understanding, Dirani demonstrated a passion for helping others.

Now in his new partnership with UNICEF, he will be working to further the rights of children in the Middle East and North Africa, with a special focus on children caught in conflict or dealing with violence and poverty.

Dirani is an immensely talented pianist. Previously described as a “Piano Prodigy” by People Magazine, he has touched tens of thousands of people in live performances, including Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth.

In the past, through his namesake foundation, Dirani used his musical talent working with young musicians to foster a culture of peace and understanding. Work done through the Zade Foundation attempts to create peace builders and future community leaders.

The piano superstar is already hard at work. Dirani went on his first a field visit as a UNICEF Ambassador to a Za’atari, Jordan refugee camp and to the neighboring town of Mafraq, Jordan.

There, he played for groups of around 300 children and adolescents. Dirani met and spoke to youth from various different backgrounds, bringing joy to many who had fled the violence in Syria.

Dirani spoke about the experience saying, “I wanted to bring my music to children and youth – today and in the months to come – as a way to engage them and become a form of therapy for those who have witnessed things that no child should ever experience.” His talent and commitment to his cause are inspiring and a valuable asset to UNICEF.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

The day of the African child
Since 1991, The Day of the African Child has been celebrated as an opportunity to advance African children’s rights. The day commemorates African students who were killed by police in a 1976 demonstration in Soweto, South Africa to protest education injustice.

The official theme of this year’s celebration, “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children’s Rights,” recognizes that conflict, natural disaster and disease currently affect 500 million children worldwide. The Day of the African Child (DAC) events have centered on promoting access to education but this year there was a focus on how access is jeopardized by conflict.

According to the UNICEF All in School initiative, 36 percent of the primary-school age children who are not attending school are prevented by their residence in conflict-affected areas. Overall, this accounts for 59.3 million children. The damage to structures and infrastructure makes it difficult for African children who live in conflict zones to attend school.

According to a recent African Union report, Africa remains the most conflict-prone continent in the world. Approximately 57 million children in the world do not attend school and 30 million of those children are in sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a conflict zone not only makes attending school unsafe but also affects children’s emotional health.

The 2016 DAC celebration took place at more than 100 events worldwide thanks to partnerships with organizations like A World at School, which utilizes a network of global youth ambassadors and faith-based groups to accelerate progress in education.

This year 500 young people from around Africa staged a ‘youth takeover’ at Ethiopia’s Africa Union, in Addis Ababa for the DAC. Youth ambassadors played a key role in the celebration and promoting the message.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides member states with outlined suggestions for observing the DAC. Their recommendations further push the goals of the celebration by providing outlines of current conflict contexts in Africa, how they impact children and best practice for mitigating the impact.

The importance afforded to three decades of DAC and its worldwide events provides hope for the situation of children across Africa. While the struggles they face are remarkably diverse, more equitable access to education remains a priority.

– Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Pixabay

children_around_the_world
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), passed in 1989, is the most widely accepted human rights treaty. This landmark piece is the first international treaty to ensure the civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights of all children under eighteen.

The treaty has 42 articles that are guided by four main principles. First, all children are equal and have the same rights. Second, every child has the right to have his or her basic needs fulfilled.

Third, every child has the right to protection from abuse and exploitation. Fourth, every child has the right to express his or her opinion and be respected.

All member states, except for the U.S. and South Sudan, have ratified the UNCRC. Here are ten ways in which the UNCRC supports children around the world:

1. It changed the way lawmakers and governments view children. Prior to the passing of the treaty, it was acceptable to view children as passive objects that were products of their parents. Through the UNCRC, children are viewed as distinct individuals with lives, needs and opinions separate from that of their parents.

2. It gives power to international bodies to intervene to support children’s rights. The passage of the UNCRC gives aid agencies and relief operations more power, particularly with regards to children’s health, safety and well-being. Since 1998, for example, UNICEF has been able to rescue more than 100,000 child soldiers.

3. It empowers international organizations into holding nations accountable. When nations are pressured or face sanctions for human rights violations, they are more likely to make efforts to fix things.

Furthermore, it enables international bodies to create regulatory framework to ensure children’s rights are protected outside of their country, such as with refugees, immigrants, trafficking victims and asylum-seekers.

4. It acknowledges that children exist and have the rights of citizens. Articles mandate that children have a right to documentation and their culture, even if it is not the culture supported by their country.

This is especially important for children of marginalized ethnic groups and populations, such as the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Yadizis living under ISIS territory.

5. It addresses children with disabilities. Children with disabilities worldwide are often excluded and marginalized, particularly when it comes to education. By saying that all children are entitled to the same rights, it empowers children whose voices are frequently silenced.

6. It improves the quality of life for children around the world. By bringing children into the spotlight, it raises awareness for children’s rights. Working to improve the lives of children in developing countries is an indication that progress is being made.

In the fight against global poverty, people are often fighting for the children. The UNCRC helped make impoverished children a more visible population for policymakers and governments to consider.

7. It explicitly states that children have the right to go to school. As education becomes increasingly powerful as a means for empowerment, especially in developing countries, it is critical that everyone has the opportunity to go to school. Education leads to knowledge, employment and potential income, which benefits all families.

By not excluding certain children from education (girls, special-needs children, children of marginalized ethnic groups), communities develop more power to fight global poverty at home and worldwide.

8. It prohibits forced labor. Many articles mandate that children working is only acceptable if they are not exposed to hazardous conditions or violence and if the work does not interfere with their education. Most importantly, the children working must choose to; their parents cannot force them.

9. It empowers children directly. Articles in the UNCRC state that children have the right to be heard. The old tenet that “children should be seen, not heard” is seen as an infringement against a child’s rights. A child knowing that they can stand up for themselves is a powerful thing.

10. With it now comes the World’s Children’s Prize! Established in 2000, the World’s Children’s Prize (WCP) holds annual elections in which children vote on a children’s rights hero.

More than 36.5 million children have cast their vote in the WCP; more than 60,000 schools in 113 different countries take part in the opportunity to educate children about their rights and let them choose a hero for their cause. Past winners of the WCP include Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.

The UNCRC was a landmark human rights treaty that empowers children and those who help them. A quarter of a century later, progress still needs to be made, but much is to be celebrated.

More children receive access to health care, birth registration, nutrition and schooling, and reductions have been made in infant mortality, children trapped in forced labor, and children recruited into the armed forces.

Let’s hope that further support from policymakers, governments and international organizations continue to promote children’s rights worldwide.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Amnesty International, UNICEF, United Nations Human Rights, The World’s Children’s Prize
Photo: Flickr

Children-Are-Out-of-School
Children are out of school: The original Millnenium Development Goals, set in 2000, aimed for every primary school-aged child in the world to be in school by 2015. At the time, 100 million children ages 6 to 11 were out of school. By 2012, significant progress had been made, but 58 million children were still out of school. However, as of 2015, that progress has been reversed, and the number of children who are not currently attending school has risen to 59 million. Looking at a wider age range, the discouraging trend still holds true. In 2011, 122 million children ages 6 to 15 were out of school, but by 2013, the number had increased to 124 million.

2015 marks the end of the MDG’s timeline, and 9 percent of primary school-aged children worldwide are still denied the right to education. 41 percent of these children have never set foot in a classroom and most likely never will, 20 percent had attended school in the past but were unable to continue for a variety of reasons and 38 percent will likely start late. The issue is worse in certain countries, with at least one million children denied the right to education in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.

Children are barred from receiving an education for various reasons. Child laborers often struggle to balance work with school and have a high risk of dropping out: this is the reality for 168 million children ages 5 to 17 worldwide. Between 93 and 150 children live with a disability, and may lack accessible school buildings, properly trained teachers and appropriate materials. Furthermore, in some areas there is a social stigma against children with disabilities attending school. Language barriers also present a challenge for the 40 percent of students worldwide who lack access to education in their mother tongue, an issue which primarily affects children from marginalized or isolated ethnic groups. The gender gap in education is also concerning: over half of out-of-school children are girls, and poor girls from rural areas with uneducated mothers are the ones most likely to not go to school. Contributing factors to girls’ lower attendance rates include rigid gender roles, gender-based violence and menstruation.

Currently, one of the largest barriers to educational access is conflict. 36 percent of out-of-school children live in countries affected by violent conflict. This can stem from political changes and war or organized crime and gang warfare, and poses multiple threats to education. Lives are lost and schools can be destructed or repurposed. Entire communities can be displaced and families dispersed. Students may stop attending school out of fear for their own safety. Families affected by conflict often find themselves worse off financially than before, making it even more unlikely that their children will complete their education.

Several solutions have been proposed to keep more children in school. Many are advocating for more humanitarian aid dedicated to education. Funds are not typically set aside in anticipation of emergency situations that interfere with education: recent examples include the war in Syria and the earthquake in Nepal. Currently, less than 2 percent of aid goes directly to education, and the global education community is now pushing for an increase to 4 percent. However, UNICEF is aiming for even more, with the goal of allotting 10 percent of aid to education specifically for children affected by conflict and natural disaster.

In September 2015, the UN will be implementing a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on universal access to primary and secondary education. This goal is ambitious, but not impossible, and governments must continue to invest money and effort into education until every child is in a classroom.

Jane Harkness

Sources: All in School 1, All in School 2, All in School 3, All in School 4, TES, UNESCO
Photo: Time and Date

Child_Marriage_in_India
Each year, approximately 15 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriage. These child brides normally have their husbands selected for them by their fathers, and they are not given any power or choice when it comes to their marriage. Many of them are forced to marry men much older than they are.

Child marriage is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. India accounts for one-third of the total child brides worldwide, even though the legal marrying age in India is 21 for men and 18 for women, as established by the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act did not cause a significant decrease in the amount of child marriages that take place in India, where 47% of girls marry before the age of 18. Child marriage in India is more common in rural areas, where 56% of girls marry before the age of 18, than they are in urban areas, where 29% of girls marry before 18.

Societal traditions and norms allow child marriage to persist despite its illegality. Many brides are forced to marry early because the later they are married, the larger their dowry will have to be. It is still common in India to give a dowry or a present from the bride’s family to the groom’s at the time of marriage, although the practice was banned in 1961.

As The Guardian states, another reason why some parents marry their daughter at a young age is because they fear that their daughter might have sexual relations when she is a teenager, therefore shaming her family and lowering her chances of getting married later on. Child marriage is also widespread because poor families realize that marrying their daughter means that they have one less child to feed, since brides tend to go live with their husband’s family.

Since child marriage is illegal, weddings normally take place in the evening or at night. Police officers are bribed to not report the marriage.

The consequences of child marriage are devastating. Girls who marry young are not able to complete their education and are therefore forced to rely on their husband and his family. Even on the rare occasion that they have the chance to end the marriage, they are often not able to because they have nowhere to go and no way to support themselves. Girls under the age of 15 are also five times more likely to die in childbirth than those over the age of 20. Young brides are also more likely to contract HIV because they are forced to marry older men.

The International Center for Research on Women reports that girls in India who marry under the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence. Child brides also experience sexual abuse, and many suffer from PTSD and severe depression.

Some girls are forced to enter a marriage agreement at an extremely young age and then go to live with their husbands when they reach puberty. This was supposed to be the case for Santa Devi Maghwal, an Indian girl from Rajasthan who was married at 11 months old and told that she would have to live with her husband when she turned 16. Maghwal is currently working with child right’s campaigner Kriti Bharti to annul the marriage. Luckily, Maghwal is not the only one who has turned to the law in order to end her marriage. Bharti made history in 2012 when she obtained India’s first annulment of a child marriage for sixteen year old Laxmi Sagara. Since then, Bharti has won 27 more annulments. While divorce is hard to come by in India, since courts are overburdened and take a long time to rule, annulments can be achieved as long as there is some proof — such as a birth or school certificate — that the bride was married before the age of 18.

Bharti has made progress, but India still has a way to go before it can truly end child marriage. For child marriages to end, societal norms and patriarchal customs need to end as well.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: ICRW, CBN, National Geographic 1, National Geographic 2, UNICEF, Girls not Brides, The Guardian
Photo: Huffington Post

sierra_leone_ban
In 2010, Sierra Leone banned visibly pregnant girls from attending school. Schools were shut down for nine months during the Ebola outbreak, but reopened again on April 14, 2015, with the ban still in place.

The ban is in effect because visibly pregnant girls supposedly set a bad example for their classmates. Sierra Leone’s minister of education, Minkailu Bah, argued that “innocent girls” could be influenced by those who are pregnant and pregnancy rates could increase.

Bah’s statement is far from the truth. Having pregnant classmates would most likely cause a drop in pregnancy rates. NPR explains that teen pregnancies in the United States dropped almost 6 percent from watching the MTV show, 16 and Pregnant. Girls who see their classmates pregnant would be less likely to become pregnant themselves.

Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places for expectant mothers, with high rates of maternal and child mortality. One-third of pregnant women in Sierra Leone are teenagers. The teenage pregnancy rates and incidences of maternal and child mortality were decreasing before Ebola, but have increased once again. Incidences of sexual violence rose during the Ebola epidemic, and girls, especially those who had lost a relative to Ebola, traded sex for supplies to help them survive.

The ban on educating pregnant girls is also detrimental because many girls see pregnancy as a turning point and are encouraged to work even harder to get an education because they know that they will have to support themselves as well as their children. The fact that girls who are inspired to get an education are not allowed to access it is extremely worrisome. If Sierra Leone lifts its ban, it will give these girls an opportunity to support themselves.

The ban also fails to acknowledge girls who are pregnant as a result of rape. Seventeen-year-old Isatu Gbanky was a student in Sierra Leone but was not allowed to return to school after it reopened because she was pregnant. Isatu said, “I was raped by a fellow student. He forced me to have sex while I was fetching water for my family. I hope the government makes an exception for girls like me.”

Isatu’s story is unfortunately not unique, but the government has yet to lift the ban on pregnancy for either rape victims or those who became pregnant through consensual sex. However, there is hope that the ban will end soon. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Irish Aid and the Department for International Development are working with Sierra Leone, and may be able to come to an agreement over a temporary solution which would involve pregnant girls getting a formal education outside the classroom. Since teenage pregnancy rates in Sierra Leone are so high, if this agreement is reached, it will be extremely significant for education levels throughout the country.

Pregnant girls attending school does not cause higher pregnancy rates. If Sierra Leone wants to lower its rate of teenage pregnancies, it needs to focus on making school cheaper and more accessible, rather than banning pregnant girls who want to attend. Girls who know that they can gain an education and have a future are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to focus on their schooling.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: The Guardian, NPR, VOA, NY Times
Photo: The Huffington Post

child development
Playing is fun! The importance of play goes beyond simply passing time or seeking health benefits. A study completed by scientist Jaak Panksepp supports the pre-existing hypothesis that play is critical to child development.

Panksepp, along with others in the scientific community, theorizes that humans, as social animals, need play to learn social rules and cues. Through sports, people form communication skills, learn cooperation and leadership and come to better understand others.

To test this idea, Panksepp experimented with rats. He isolated one group so they could not play, while allowing another group to play. When both groups were placed in the same cage, the rats that received more stimulation were better able to interact and mate than the rats that were not allowed to play.

A comparable study done on kittens by a different group of scientists observed similar results. The young cats that were unable to play failed to acquire certain social skills. And although the kittens that were deprived of play could still hunt well, they were more aggressive and had trouble fitting in socially with other cats.

Lack of play, especially at a young age, proves to be a serious problem. Panksepp concluded that, with play, both humans and animals learn to live in social groups, build relationships, express emotions and master skills that do not come instinctively.

The importance of play for child development cannot be understated, according to Panksepp and many others concerned with the health and well being of young people.

The U.N. and UNICEF hold play as a fundamental right for every child, and protect that right under Article 31 of the Convention of Right of the Child. Sport and recreation are essential components of a child’s education, allowing children to gain confidence and lead healthier, more balanced lives.

Unfortunately, children living in poverty and areas of conflict are the most deprived of play.

Children are denied their rights when they are forced to work at a young age. In an effort to support their families, poor children drop out of school and work long and hard jobs. Across the world, there are over 168 million child laborers. Laboring like adults prevents them from playing and gaining the important life skills that come with play.

War and violence also keep children from play. Those in conflict zones live in constant fear and cannot run and have fun outside. With current conflicts raging in Gaza, Iraq and Syria, to name a few, the impact of war on children’s lives today is extensive and pervasive.

Without play, children living in poverty and conflict are denied essential interactions. Childhood is a critical period to set the foundations for healthy development, and play acts as an important component to this growth. The study completed by Panksepp suggests that the conditions experienced by children in poverty and conflict can have long-term negative consequences on their development.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: NPR, UNICEF, International Labor Organization
Photo: UNICEF

child labor
In a legal decision, Bolivian officials have changed the legal working age from 14 to 10, thereby becoming the first nation to legalize child labor.

Despite provisions for children who are working at such a young age, including their being supervised by a parent if they are under the age of 12 or that they must continue school, the legalization of child labor still violates the minimum working age protocol declared by the International Labor Organization. It is still “‘an abandonment of a child’s right to a childhood.”

Moreover, the Guardian reports that there are only 78 child labor inspectors and over 800,000 currently working. The promise that the child protection requirements for these new labor laws will be consistently upheld is unlikely.

Co-sponsor of the bill and deputy Javier Zavaleta told Time Magazine that he supported the bill in the hopes that it would help decrease the amount of poverty in Bolivia. He said that “extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor, so our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

Human rights activists, however, find it suspect that these officials are trying to justify child labor by claiming it will ultimately end child labor.

Children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker, told Time Magazine that “child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty” and that “the Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not to support it.”

Becker also explained that when children from poor families are sent to work instead of school, they are more likely to end up with low-wage jobs later in life, thus continuing the cycle of poverty and the misconception that child labor will help end it.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, Forbes, TIME
Photo: VNews