75 years of UNICEF: Unconditionally by the side of the children

Status: 11.12.2021 10:41 a.m.

Hundreds of thousands of children suffered from hunger and disease in war-torn Europe. On December 11, 1946, the UN founded its children’s aid organization to alleviate the hardship. Since then, UNICEF has been campaigning for children around the world.

By Peter Mücke, ARD Studio New York

Anyone who came into contact with UNICEF as a child in destroyed post-war Germany remembers one thing above all else: cod liver oil. At the end of 1948, the Children’s Fund sent its first freighter from New York to Hamburg – filled to the hatch with the vitamin-rich oil made from cod and cod liver. Up to 1952 a total of 416 tons. It was by no means a matter of course that UNICEF aid would also arrive in the country that instigated World War II. But in the end the principle prevailed, which still applies today: unconditional support for all children worldwide.

It is thanks to the Polish-French bacteriologist Ludwig Rajchman that the children’s aid organization was founded at all – on December 11, 1946. Rajchman had already been involved in the predecessor organization UNRRA. But it was not until 1953 that UNICEF became a permanent organization of the United Nations.

German UNICEF committee founded in 1953

The US presidential widow Eleanor Roosevelt was particularly committed to this. That was also when UNICEF realigned its work. Towards the African, Latin American and Asian developing countries. The formerly suffering states of Europe were now donor countries. Like the Federal Republic of Germany, where the UNICEF national committee was founded in June 1953.

“Two thirds of all children in this world live in need and misery. Shouldn’t we try to open our hearts to the misery of children in developing countries? That seems so distant and yet has been so close since the world became so small”, advertised the first chairwoman Etta Countess von Waldersee on German television. To date, UNICEF is financed exclusively through private donations and voluntary contributions from national governments. And thus helps millions of children worldwide – regardless of skin color, religion and under which political system they live. In 1965 UNICEF received the Nobel Peace Prize for this.

Henry Labouisse led the children’s charity until 1979. His principle: The well-being of today’s children is inextricably linked with the peace of the world of tomorrow. And that includes not only food aid and vaccination campaigns, but also educational programs – and children’s rights.

Milestone child rights convention

In 1989 the United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Anchored in it: The right to survival and schooling and protection from violence and abuse. One of many milestones in the 75-year history, says Natascha Paddison from UNICEF. But in the anniversary year of all things, there are serious setbacks – mainly due to the consequences of the corona pandemic.

“The number of children starving, unable to attend school, living in poverty, molested or forced into marriage is increasing. While the number of children with access to health care, routine vaccines, healthy food and basic services is falling “says Paddison.

New beginning with cod liver oil – 75 years ago the UN children’s aid organization UNICEF was given

Peter Mücke, ARD New York, December 11th, 2021 9:48 am


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