I admire people who help children, and especially the staff and volunteers at UNICEF.
I often associate UNICEF with the bright and cheerful greeting cards I've used for years or their always fun Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF at Halloween.
But I also want to remember that they are out in some of the hardest places on earth, helping children through devastatiing conditions most of us can't even imagine.
If the welfare of children is on your list of causes you'd like to support this holiday season, please think of UNICEF. Here are four easy-to-ignore situations where UNICEF is helping, and where you can help as well.
Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo: As clashes between the rebel group known as the "M23 movement" and the Congolese Army continue in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), children are caught on the front lines. The recent violence has uprooted at least 100,000 people, more than half of whom are children. UNICEF is on the ground working to deliver urgent supplies to children and their families but has received less than a quarter of the funding it needs in the DRC.
Syrian Refugees: The situation for the estimated 400,000 Syrian refugees is grim. Many children fled their homes with only summer clothing and are now in temporary shelters and in desperate need of warm clothes. UNICEF urgently needs $79.3 million for its emergency response, which includes providing children's clothing, blankets, and other winter supplies in Syria and the surrounding countries hosting refugees.
Families Displaced in South Sudan: In the world's youngest nation, the humanitarian situation of children, who already face malnutrition and lack of access to social services, is deteriorating due to political tensions with neighboring Sudan. In South Sudan UNICEF is providing treatment for children with severe malnutrition, a life-threatening condition, and access to clean water for families displaced by the ongoing conflict; the organization has received only 40% of the funds it needs to continue relief efforts in South Sudan.
Lack of Toilets: An estimated 2.5 billion people--more than a third of the world's population--live without access to a proper toilet. A lack of adequate sanitation remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children. UNICEF estimates that some two million children die each year from pneumonia and diarrhea, illnesses that are largely preventable with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF provides clean water and sanitation and promotes safe hygiene practices in more than 90 countries around the world.
These are just a handful of the desperate situations that children around the globe experience. UNICEF can and does help. When you give to any relief organization, give generously and give unrestricted gifts. That way these organizations, that are really acting for us, can use our donations where and when they can help the most.
Photo Courtesy of UNICEF: Displaced children from Syria now face a new fight for survival as temperatures drop. UNICEF is racing against the clock to provide blankets, clothing, and other essential items to keep children safe and warm.