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UN Agencies: UNICEF Working to Establish Children’s Rights

In the run-up to the United Nations (UN) Day on October 24th and as part of The CSR Journal’s new UN-Agencies series, let us explore United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a special program of the United Nations (UN) devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.
UNICEF was created in 1946 as International Children’s Emergency Fund (ICEF) by UN relief Rehabilitation Administration to help children affected by World War II. It became a permanent part of the United Nations in 1953. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. It strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children. The agency was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1965 for “promotion of brotherhood among the nations”. With its headquarters in New York City. UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories with 7 regional offices.

The Scope of Work of UNICEF

After 1950, the UNICEF directed its efforts toward general programs for the improvement of children’s welfare, particularly in less-developed countries and in various emergency situations. It eventually expanded its scope to the struggle of women, especially mothers, in the developing world. For example, it launched its ‘Women in Development Programme’ in 1980. In 1982, UNICEF commenced a new children’s health program that focused on monitoring growth, oral rehydration therapy, advocating breastfeeding and immunization.
The work of the UNICEF includes:
– Child Development and Nutrition;
– Child Protection;
– Education;
– Child Environment;
– Polio Eradication;
– Reproductive and Child Health;
– Children and AIDS;
– Social Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation;
– Advocacy and Partnership;
– Behaviour Change Communication;
– Emergency Preparedness and Response.
UNICEF mobilizes political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries. It is committed to ensuring special protection for the most disadvantaged children — victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation, especially those with disabilities. UNICEF works with all its partners towards the attainment of the sustainable human development goals adopted by the world community.

UNICEF and India

UNICEF began its work in India in 1949 with three staff members and established an office in Delhi three years later. Currently, it advocates for the rights of India’s children in 16 states.
Work done by UNICEF in India includes:

Census support, 2011

UNICEF played a role in mainstreaming Gender issues into the training and communication strategy for the 2011 Census. This helped 2.7 million enumerators and supervisors collect quality disaggregated data as part of the UNICEF contribution to the joint United Nations support to the Census.

Polio Campaign, 2012

The Government, in partnership with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to almost universal awareness of the need to vaccinate all children under five against polio. This caused the felling of polio cases in India from 559 in 2008 to zero in 2012.  As a result of these efforts, India was removed from the list of endemic countries in 2014.

Reduction in MMR, 2013

UNICEF’s support to the National Health Mission (NHM) and the second phase of the Reproductive and Child Health programme resulted in increased access to institutional and community-based maternal, neonatal and child health services. This contributed to a reduction in the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) to 130 (2014-16), and the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) to 34 (2016).

Call to Action, 2013

This initiative was launched to reduce under-five mortality. It has brought together state governments, development partners, such as UNICEF, NGOs, the corporate sector and other key stakeholders under the umbrella to ensure harmony in efforts to accelerate inroads in child survival.

Maternal and Child Nutrition, 2013

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) successfully launched a nationwide communication campaign on Maternal and Child Nutrition with UNICEF Ambassador promoting nutrition for children. This was one of the largest public service campaigns in the country, reaching people across India, through diverse means of communication in 18 languages.

Strategic Plan (2018–2021)

UNICEF has launched a Strategic plan for 2018-2021 in order to help realize and protect the rights of all children through five goal areas, which are linked to both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
1. every child survives and thrives;
2. every child learns;
3. every child is protected from violence and exploitation;
4. every child lives in a safe and clean environment; and
5. every child has an equitable chance in life.
The plan also includes two additional areas that cut across all of the other goals: gender equality and humanitarian action.
The plan promotes synergies across goal areas to address early childhood development and adolescent development, and to support children with disabilities.