Founding of UNICEF
Founding of UNICEF
On December 11, 1946, the United Nations created UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund).
The United Nations itself was established just a year earlier, in October 1945. Shortly after, it created the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to fight the famine and disease that spread across Europe in the wake of World War II.
By the end of 1946, many of these nations were recovering and the UNRRA was planned to close. However, it still had funds, and there were still plenty of people in need of aid, especially as the approaching winter was expected to be one of the worst on record.
Meanwhile, filmmakers with the U.S. Army had created a 19-minute documentary titled Seeds of Destiny, which showed children begging, searching for food in the garbage, and suffering in hospitals and orphanages. This documentary raised $200 million for children’s aid and was shown at the last meeting of the UNRRA. That day they decided that the remainder of their budget should be used to fund an organization that provided aid to children. They also received inspiration from the Save the Children International Union, which had been founded during World War I and adopted by the League of Nations in 1924.
The proposal for this new organization was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, which accepted it and formed UNICEF on December 11, 1946. The task of this agency was to supply children with the necessities of life. Emergency supplies of food, clothing, and medicine were among its top priorities. Eventually the world recovered from WWII, but a new awareness of child welfare and basic rights had been accomplished through the U.N.’s effort. It was decided that the children’s fund would become a permanent agency in 1953. Although it was renamed the United Nations Children’s Fund, the original program was so popular that it is still called UNICEF to this day.
In 1965, UNICEF received a high honor – the Nobel Peace Prize for “fulfilling the condition of Nobel’s will, the promotion of brotherhood among the nations” and serving as “a peace-factor of great importance.”
Today UNICEF is the largest international agency whose single purpose is to serve children. An executive board of thirty nations who meet once a year to discuss new programs and policies controls it. An executive director is in charge of the board, whose headquarters are located in New York City. Volunteer groups and other agencies give additional support.
Seventy-five percent of UNICEF’s financial needs are met by the contributions of participating governments. Money is also provided through charities and fundraisers. Children in the U.S. often go door-to-door selling calendars and greeting cards. One of the organization’s most well known fundraising efforts is Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. This began in 1950 when a group of Philadelphia children donated $17 they got on Halloween to help victims of World War II. Since then, the U.S. alone has raised more than $132 million.
UNICEF provides aid wherever it is needed, regardless of race, creed, religion, or geographic location. Special attention is given to programs that provide long-term benefits to as many as possible, and at little cost. Insecticides, vaccines, antibiotics, and basic medical supplies are used to fight disease. Powdered milk and food processing equipment are sent to battle malnutrition. Cash grants are given to support schools and day care centers. Training is provided for doctors, nurses, and health workers. Often children are saved from disease or starvation by a few pennies worth of medicine.
Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.