In the wake of a war that devastated every corner of the globe, civilians struggled to piece together their homes and lives, shattered by the egregious violence. The exhausted soldiers, decimated cities, mass executions and constant bombings established the desperate mood moving forward from the war. Nobody had seen a war as bloody as WWII, giving rise to a new term in order to capture the monstrosities that occurred: crimes against humanity. In retrospect of the two world wars, political figures determined that international and multilateral peace keeping efforts, not severe reprimands, would maintain security and harmony which was evident in the rebuilding project, monetary investments and international agreements. In those years following the war, the Allied countries and organizations, such as the United Nations, had their hands full, It was in 1946 that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was created with the goal of serving children. Four years later, the United Nations decided to keep UNICEF as a permanent program that would function off of government and civilian donations. Since WWII, UNICEF has become so involved and omnipresent in its humanitarian missions.
Of UNICEF’s multiple focuses, basic child survival is one of those humanitarian missions. Addressing the physical needs of children, UNICEF provides access to clean water, healthcare services and food supplies, reducing child death rates by 50% across the borders of over 190 countries. Responsible for rapid responses to food and water insecurities, UNICEF will deliver containers of water and packages of food. For many malnourished and dehydrated children, they require specialized supplements because, in many cases, their bodies may reject nutrients and water, so UNICEF will provide hydration salts, therapeutic foods and the resources necessary to monitor and improve their health. To build more long term solutions, UNICEF works to end unequal access to food and water, to train community health workers to treat malnutrition, to establish policies and programs with government, and to construct water sources with local workers. By coordinating with locals and governments, the organization provides aid that will last for several generations. Children are not only subject to malnutrition and dehydration but are also vulnerable to developing diseases which could easily be prevented with proper immunizations. For that reason, UNICEF buys the most vaccines in the world increasing vaccination rates by four-fold and decreasing the cost of vaccines. Some diseases that UNICEF has extensively fought are measles and polio, and UNICEF also treats patients with tuberculous, influenza, etc.
In addition to increasing child survival rates, UNICEF is dedicated to child protection and development. For instance, the organization protects children from human trafficking and child soldier recruitment, which threaten children’s lives, inhibit children’s abilities to grow and blockades them from living safe childhoods and pursuing their own futures. Taking preventative steps, UNICEF collaborates with communities to gain local support, provides economic stability to families to prevent child exploitation, and lobbies for child protection laws. In South Sudan, UNICEF encouraged the passage of a law that would address the issue of child soldiers and provide more protections for children’s rights. Preventative measures may come too late for some children, who have already been exploited and recruited, exposed to abuse and separated from their families. The first step to help these children is to secure their release which UNICEF has accomplished before in the Central African Republic, where armed groups agreed to release thousands of child soldiers after negotiations with UNICEF. The horrors that these children face follow them after their release, evident in the physical and mental trauma. To alleviate their situations, UNICEF will provide counseling for and training for social workers and police officers among other things to easily transition children into a stable childhood. In addition, allowing children to grow and develop their skills and knowledge, UNICEF also prioritizes access to education. Conflicts and natural disasters destroy instructional facilities and resources; human trafficking, child labor and fighter recruitment place children in situations where education is neither prioritized nor available to them. The organization engages itself into regions in need, funding the construction of schools, granting resources to existing facilities and sending educational kits. UNICEF upholds the importance of providing children with opportunities of growth and development by deterring child exploitation and edifying the next generation.
UNICEF’s involvement extends much further than supplying food, water, immunizations, protection and education; in fact, these are only a few ways in which UNICEF benefits children’s lives. Still, UNICEF, for seventy years, has accomplished and exceeded at each undertaking, dramatically increasing survival rates and quality of life. As incredible as its achievements are, UNICEF, however, shall not be satisfied until every child is promised a safe and healthy childhood which means that this international organization will continue to work just as rigorously to end trafficking, malnutrition, dehydration and inequality.