UNICEF helps promote a better world
UNICEF, the United Nation's Children Fund, does make the world more fit for children. In response to Professor Rice's Sept. 20 column, I add my perspective after having worked for UNICEF briefly.
Rice's critique on UNICEF is not convincing. First, Rice criticizes UNICEF for considering controversial wording in the U.N. Special Session on Children's report. However, the language of this report resulted from a collaborative effort by the United Nations at large, not just UNICEF. Member states reached a consensus and those words in question were not included in the report. Second, Rice decries an endorsement by the United Nations that originated between 1992 and 2000.
Again, I fail to see the connection between these ambiguous endorsements by the United Nations (which were also officially blocked) and UNICEF, a fairly autonomous organization. Finally, Rice criticizes UNICEF for a book published by the Mexican government that addresses reproductive health issues. Yet Rice proceeds to inform readers that Carol Bellmay, the UNICEF executive director, confirmed the withdrawal of this book from circulation. I ask how this retracted publication effectively questions UNICEF as a legitimate advocate of children's rights.
Just as Professor Rice supports full disclosure and "truth in labeling," I elucidate on UNICEF as an organization. I volunteered at the U.N. historic Special Session on Children last May, so I can add to Rice's list of "intriguing concepts" that emerged from these meetings. Largely discussed was the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that bans use of child soldiers. The most "intriguing" aspect of this protocol was the fact that at the time only two countries out of 192 failed to ratify this protocol: the United States and Somalia. Following the Special Session, the United States proved itself by ratifying the protocol over the summer.
There was also discussion on the 800,000 infants that were infected with HIV last year and ways to combat this tragic growth; UNICEF, along with the United Nations, actively discusses preventative measures. After listening to impressive speeches by Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and others, I learned that UNICEF supports vaccination programs including the millions of doses of yellow fever vaccinations distributed in Ghana last year and how UNICEF helped reduce the cases of polio worldwide in 1998 from 2,000 to 170.
In addition, UNICEF procured $600 million worth of supplies in 2001, distributed 6,300 emergency kits to children around the world and sits on the Global Movement for Children campaign which has garnered 94 million pledges to the "Say Yes to Children" program. These compelling statistics are only a few ways in which UNICEF makes the world more fit for children, a claim that even the Vatican cannot belie.
Finally, in regard to Rice's comments on "little kids carrying the UNICEF donation cans on Halloween," I would say as an adult, I have done this numerous times and encourage all people to participate in this important campaign to fight iodine deficiency disorder.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 23, 2002