The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1946. Its core objective is to improve the health of the world's children. It has an extensive global health presence and strong partnerships with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the national and community level. After WHO, UNICEF plays the most important role in health among the UN organizations, with particular expertise in implementing vaccination and oral rehydration programmes. In addition to programme implementation, as the co-sponsor of the Alma-Ata Declaration on Universal Primary Health Care and the Bamako Initiative (on improved access to essential drugs, and efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality), UNICEF is a central actor in health advocacy for women and children, and in the practical work of promoting health at the global and country level.

Areas of interest

  • child protection
  • basic education and gender equality
  • HIV and AIDS and children
  • child survival and development

UNICEF works in health in a number of ways, such as:

  • engaging in policy advocacy by helping governments identify key health priorities and by linking UNICEF programmes to existing health sector reforms
  • improving health services by assisting governments with technical and financial strategies, providing supplies and essential health commodities, training health staff and creating networks among key institutions
  • promoting healthy behaviours by helping to promote practices at the household and community level that are proven to improve child health and development
  • measuring health status - a crucial task as monitoring and evaluation of the health situations provides health decision-makers with up-to-date and reliable information

UNICEF's executive director is Ann M. Veneman. UNICEF employs nearly 10,000 global staff. Based in Geneva, the regional office for central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States represents UNICEF and aims to coordinate policies, designed in New York, with the UN specialized agencies and international organizations based in Geneva. UNICEF also has an office in Brussels, where it maintains an important partnership with the European Union. In a recent interview published by Action for Global Health, Margaret Wachenfeld, Senior Policy Adviser, UNICEF Brussels Office, claimed that "to be truly effective, interventions [for maternal, newborn and child health] must exist within an environment supportive of women's rights and in this Europe has played and can continue to play a strong role in addressing gender discrimination. The EU has always been a strong supporter of sexual and reproductive health rights and we count on Europe to continue in this important leadership role, matching words with action."



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