International days are a perfect way to bring single issues to the forefront of people’s minds. Often recognized nationally and by organizations like the U.N., they create a powerful opportunity to advocate, raise awareness and amplify the voices of people in need.
This Friday is World Children’s Day, an observance built on one simple idea: that every child deserves the possibility of a fulfilling, healthy life. Each year, this day offers an opportunity to celebrate the amazing progress and achievements made for children since its establishment in 1946.
However, it is also a call to action.
Over the course of more than 60 years, the world has made immense progress in protecting children and upholding their rights. For example, just three decades ago, polio was a serious threat to the lives of children. However, we are now closer than ever to eradicating the disease. The number of children affected by polio has reduced by 99% since 1988 – and there are fewer than 200 cases today, confined to just two countries.
Another huge milestone falls under fighting childhood malnutrition. Innovations and new technologies have advanced the ability to reach hard-to-access areas and bring new education opportunities, financial services, health care and medical training. Thanks to these strides, the past 30 years has seen tremendous progress in increasing the child survival rate and reducing the proportion of undernourished children by half.
We have come so far, but there is still immense work to be done before we can live in a world where every child has an equitable chance in life.
There are many organizations pursuing this goal every day – and UNICEF USA, a charity working to empower the world’s most vulnerable children, is one of the ones leading the way. For UNICEF USA, World Children’s Day is an opportunity to bring more attention and support to this very important global cause and bring a better future to children everywhere.
What is World Children’s Day?
World Children’s Day honors the children of the world, focusing on international togetherness and raising awareness for improving children’s welfare. This encompasses not only basic human needs like food, water, health care and protection, but also protecting their civil rights and freedom from discrimination. Children deserve access to an environment that is nurturing and allows them to grow into physically, emotionally and mentally healthy adults.
Established by the U.N., this observance is celebrated on the same day every year in commemoration of two important events:
- Nov. 20, 1959, when the U.N. General Assembly adopted an extended form of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child that was previously adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. This was the first major international agreement highlighting the special needs of children and affirming that “mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give.”
- Nov. 20, 1989, when The U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights of children.
The positions that children hold in society often makes them the most vulnerable from the actions, or inactions, of adults. For more than 70 years, UNICEF USA has worked with the U.N. and its agencies to make sure that children are on the global agenda and protected.
Progress has been made
UNICEF USA works to rally everyone who is passionate about the rights of children to support the charity’s powerful global reach. The charity’s tireless work in over 190 countries, focused on the the most disadvantaged, includes all components necessary for development: health care, clean water and sanitation, proper nutrition, and access to education. Through UNICEF USA, real progress has been achieved in the lives of children around the world by responding in emergencies and areas of conflict, to pursuing policy changes that increase equality in all forms. These changes can be seen through some amazing statistics that reflect a real world impact, for real children.
We’ve already examined some of the broader ways in which the world has changed for children over the last several decades – here are a few of UNICEF USA’s achievements that we can celebrate, as well:
- Reducing childhood mortality. UNICEF's lifesaving interventions have helped cut child deaths by more than 50% since 1990. Last year, the charity reached 4.1 million children with Ready-to-Use Therapeutic food to help treat severe acute malnutrition.
- Eradicating diseases. UNICEF helps immunize 45% of the world’s children. UNICEF works with partners within governments, nonprofits and the private sector to increase vaccine access in remote areas, reduce prices, and increase effectiveness through innovations and health technologies. Together, they help to engage communities, provide and distribute vaccines, and identify children who might be overlooked.
- Protecting children from abuse. Since 2013, UNICEF has supported the rescue of more than 3,600 child soldiers and, last year, the charity reached 5.7 million girls in danger of child marriage with prevention and care interventions. UNICEF’s child protection programs help respond to the threats many children face from sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labor and more.
- Providing emergency and disaster relief. In 2019 alone, UNICEF responded to nearly 300 humanitarian emergencies, many of them still ongoing. With staff around the world and a 24/7 emergency operations center, UNICEF is provides short- and long-term care by procuring water, food, protection, shelter, health care and psycho-social support to children and their families whenever a crisis arises.
- Increasing access to WASH. UNICEF works in over 100 countries to help provide safe water and sanitation to children and their families by increasing everyday access through piped services and wells. These efforts have resulted in 1.8 billion people gaining access to safe water since 2000.
World Children’s Day 2020: A day to reimagine a better future, for every child
World Children Day is UNICEF USA’s global day of action for children, by children. It’s an opportunity for advocacy, raising awareness and raising funds for the most pressing issues facing children. This year, many of those issues are related to COVID-19.
The pandemic is threatening the rights of children everywhere, and UNICEF USA is working to mitigate the effects. In addition to its future role leading the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccinations, diagnostics and therapeutics on behalf of the COVAX facility, UNICEF has:
- Reached more than 2.75 billion people with messaging around the risks of COVID-19 and best practices for its containment.
- Supported 230 million children in continuing their education through remote learning as schools closed.
- Provided 63.5 million people with critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies and services.
- Given 50 million children and women access to essential health care services in UNICEF-supported facilities.
- Provided over 2 million children, parents and primary caregivers with community-based mental health and psychosocial support in Argentina.
- Reached over 1 million people with hygiene kits in Brazil.
- Provided over 20,000 health care facilities and community health workers with personal protective equipment in Guatemala.
And more as part of its $1.6 billion pandemic response deployed across 63 countries.
Children are our future, and they are the ones who will have to live with the effects of not only COVID-19, but also how the world chooses to respond. UNICEF USA recommends this: “The global community must listen to children and young people, working alongside them to design a better future.”
7 things YOU can do
Whether you’re a teacher, health care professional, government leader, or hold a different position, if you’re passionate about caring for and protection children, there are many opportunities to get involved with UNICEF USA this World Children’s Day (and every other day!). With a little thought, many of these ideas can be worked into any workplace giving program (find out how – contact us today!):
- Volunteer with UNICEF USA in your own community. Join UNICEF UNITE to advocate in the United States on behalf of children around the world. UNITERS are supporters and volunteers of all kinds. You can advocate, fundraise, learn, speak out and build a community with others who are passionate about protecting children.
- Make your voice heard! Visit the UNICEF USA Action Center where you can speak out, write your congressperson, take action and share information about important current issues. Also, check and see if your country is doing anything for World Children’s Day – there may be speaking opportunities!
- Take a course and learn more about child rights and why they matter. A great way to learn more about the cause and provide inspiration you can use in your everyday work and life, this free and short e-course will transform or refresh your understanding of child rights.
- Support UNICEF USA's work to protect children through our COVID-19 Relief Fund.
- Connect on social media and spread the word. Stay up-to-date and get involved throughout the year with UNICEF USA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share the charity’s important stories and issues with your coworkers, friends and family.
- Get in the holiday spirit – show the people in your life how much you care through beautiful, hand-crafted artisanal gifts from the UNICEF Market. As an added bonus, these gifts give back and send lifesaving supplies to children around the world.
Lastly, take time to appreciate and reflect on the children in your life. Whether you’re a parent, a sibling, a cousin, or a family friend, consider the children who you know. How would their lives be different without organizations like UNICEF USA? Take an opportunity to be grateful for all we have and the amazing progress that has been made worldwide in the lives of children. We will continue to make progress and to reimagine a better world #ForEveryChild.