Here it is. The final Hot Topic of the year 2023.
It has almost been a year since posting here on our glamorous new website and talking about "the beautiful game" hosted in Qatar and how it corresponds to British Values!
Why have we chosen to talk about UNICEF during the month synonymous with giving gifts and looking towards the future? We want to raise awareness of the work that UNICEF does and celebrate the good they do worldwide. What better time than in the month of their 77th birthday?
Good from Evil - The Origins of UNICEF
To begin understanding UNICEF's origins, we must first understand the origins of UNRRA - the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
The United States and Britain founded this administrative body as a grand global experiment to establish an international social welfare programme. President Franklin Roosevelt pitched it to the US Congress as a means to re-energise the peoples of Europe and China on behalf of democracy on the 9th of November, 1943.
In an article titled "A United Nations Health Service - Why not?" published in Free World magazine as early as September 1943, Ludwik Rajchman, a Polish health expert, suggested incorporating a health service within the forthcoming international organisation. He also advocated for the imposition of a "health tax" to be contributed by member states.
In early 1944, Ludwik was approached by the Deputy General of UNRRA and was assigned to develop programs for epidemiology (the science of understanding how diseases spread and why they occur) and refugee assistance.
In the following year, 1945, World War II had concluded and left millions without a place to call home, struggling every day for food and water and at the peril of tuberculosis in the aftermath. In response, the UNRRA began to operate a small relief effort in October of that year on behalf of the UN to provide aid against famine and diseases in Europe.
Skipping ahead a year later to December of 1946, the Allies of World War II reconvened as the Cold War began to divide Europe into two distinct zones, Eastern and Western. At the same time, UNRRA also ended with a leftover budget since it knew it was not openly welcome in every part of Europe. However, as winter was rapidly threatening to become one of the worst in history, the Allies knew one thing was clear: A relief group was necessary, lest the misplaced and ill-prepared survivors of the war succumb to the harsh winter ahead. During a UN assembly, Ludwik proposed that the UN should set up a new branch to use the leftover budget from UNRRA to feed children.
This simple proposition by Ludwik left the entire UN assembly board entranced. And so, on the 11th of December, 1946, a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly declared a new branch with a goal similar to that of UNRRA. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund emerged as a temporary beacon of hope for the world's most vulnerable population in Europe after the war – children. Their goal was to provide food and drink, clothing, and health care to every child of war. The branch's goal was also reflected in one of its first unique logos that depicted a boy drinking milk above the initials of this newly established branch: UNICEF.
January of 1947 saw a businessman named Maurice Pate become the first Executive Director of UNICEF. As part of his administration, he ambitiously noted that there are more children in the countries outside of Europe. He ambitiously moved the goalposts detailed in UNICEF's initial mandate from exclusively helping Europe to helping developing and independent countries worldwide.
Cards For Humanity - UNICEF'S First Fundraiser
Now for a bit of timely Christmas card trivia. In 1949, UNICEF was the first charity to start making greeting cards for fundraising. Their first Christmas card campaign featured approximately 500 cards featuring a painting sent as a gift to the UNICEF headquarters from Czechoslovakia by a seven-year-old girl named Dzitka Samkova. Sent by one of her teachers, this captivating painting shows:
Five girls dancing around a colourful maypole with equally colourful dresses.
A bright blue sky featuring a cheery sun with rosy-red cheeks and a face, quite literally beaming down a smile.
On a hill in the background is the UNICEF bureau in Prague.
On the topic of UNICEF and greeting cards, did you know that in 1952, several famous artists were recruited and even donated unique artworks to feature on UNICEF's cards? These artists include:
Henri Matisse (The visual artist behind vibrant works including "Woman in a Hat" and "The Snail")
Salvador Dali (One of the well-known artists of surreal art and the artist behind "The Persistence of Memory" with melting clocks)
Pablo Picasso (Yes, the Spanish artist/sculptor famous for his "Cubism" style and the artist behind pieces like "The Old Guitarist" and the widely debated "Guernica")
Raul Dufy (A French artist known for their Fauvism technique and the artist behind "Chateau and Horses")
The campaign was a huge success, and this fundraiser meant that UNICEF could continue to help countries in need. Partially thanks to this campaign showing the work they do for one child among many, the UN decided to cement UNICEF's branch indefinitely in 1953, which also saw the words "Emergency" and "International" officially dropped from the name of the branch.
Nineteen years after the branch was initially founded in 1965, UNICEF even won a Nobel Peace Prize for "its effort to enhance solidarity between nations and reduce the difference between rich and poor states".
How are they helping today?
While UNICEF's goals and understanding have evolved, their mandate has remained unchanged. Let us look into some of the fascinating ways in which UNICEF make a difference that we might overlook:
Food for Thought, Therapy and Life
WASH, A Liquid Lifeline
Even since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, many countries have been cut off from getting supplies due to the major disruption caused by global supply chains. UNICEF was able to procure and deliver:
1,493,000,000 vaccines to 112 countries
1,645,000,000 syringes and 16,000,000 safety boxes to 99 countries
489,000,000 face masks and 33,200,000 N95 respirators
Even now, mothers and children require aid, and UNICEF is trying to respond by implementing various programs and initiatives aimed at addressing their needs. From providing essential healthcare services to ensuring access to clean water and nutrition, UNICEF works tirelessly to safeguard the well-being of mothers and children around the world, regardless of whether that help is needed in conflict zones or areas at risk from natural disasters. UNICEF's emergency response teams proactively work to both rescue and educate.
Discussion points for Safeguarding and British Values:
How can advocacy for children's rights contribute to a more peaceful society?
Can more be done to advocate for children's rights?
Do children deserve to be empowered to participate in life-affecting decisions?
How can we protect the vulnerable from harm?
What other ways does UNICEF respond to humanitarian crises, and what unique challenges does it face in such situations?