Hope in their hands: Refugee children share their keepsakes

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A picture, a toy, a blanket. All have something in common — they’re the most precious object in the world for a Syrian refugee.

Christopher Herwig & Adrian Brune

14 June 2019

Many of us have a cherished childhood object. A keepsake. A reminder of something or someone we love. Even as violence continued to rage around them, Syrian children fleeing for safety found space among the necessities they carried for their own such items.

For many of the nearly 44,000 Syrian children under age 5 at the Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, these precious objects provide a connection to their past and bring comfort in a turbulent world. Each item comes with a story.

Nine refugee children share these stories – about their uprooted lives, their keepsakes, and the powerful memories that these precious objects represent.

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Hala, 11, keeps the photos she brought from Syria hidden, to protect them from damage. But she sometimes takes them out to look at them, to remind her of her former life. Her favourite: one of her and her brother. “It was a Friday. My mom had dressed me nicely for Friday prayer, then we went to the market and a restaurant,” Hala says. “After that we went to a photographer’s studio where this photo was taken. When I look at this photo, I remember those days again.”

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“This key ring belonged to my Dad; I inherited it from him a long time ago,” says Ahmed, 12, who holds a key fob inscribed with his father’s name. Ahmed’s father died of a heart attack at the start of the war in Syria. Ahmed now lives with his grandmother and brother in the Za’atari camp. “I barely have any memories of my Dad but…my favourite memory is the time he brought us to the river for a picnic. If I want to remember him, I take out his key ring and look at it.”

Yara, 10, holds her doll, a birthday gift from her father. She has named the doll Farah. “It got scary in Syria. There were shootings. Dad said get your stuff together, we’re going,” she says. “I wanted to bring [my] teddy bear, but my parents said no, it was too big, so I put Farah in my bag.” Yara wants to return to Syria someday, and has pledged to bring Farah back with her. “I will dress her up and get her ready and we will go. But this time, I’m bringing all of my toys.”

“My Ben 10 transforms into an alien from space and saves the world,” says Omar, 11, referring to his teddy bear. Omar lost both of his brothers in the Syrian conflict. One of them, Abdulrahman, “bought [the bear] for me and told me to take care of it. We used to watch the [Ben 10] cartoon together.” Omar’s family had to leave most of their things in Syria, “but my mom packed Ben 10.”

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Rudaina, 11, still has her house keys from Syria. “I brought them with me because when we go back to Syria, I’m going to be the one who opens the door,” she says.  Rudaina, who is in the fourth grade at a school in the Za’atari camp, doesn’t remember her native country, but says that her parents told her it was beautiful. “We once had a home, but now we live in a caravan. I feel so sad when I hold the keys because I’m so far away from home,” she says.

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This is my blanket…My grandmother bought it for me” explains Nour, 12, as she holds it out. “I remember that we had to flee because there was bombing. I was wrapped up in it when… I came here.” Nour says she sometimes feels sad when she wraps herself up in the blanket now, but also safe. “I’m going to keep it as long as I can.”

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When she was little, Iman’s parents would give her a doll when she was crying. Iman, 13, says she named the doll Lulu. “I feel safe as long as Lulu is with me,” she says, adding that having her doll with her helps her feel better when she is afraid or sad. Although she usually keeps Lulu hidden these days, Iman says she allows her little sister to play with her. “I’ll keep Lulu forever.”

Qusai, 13, also has something he says he’ll keep forever: his school backpack. “I’ll tell my children my father gave this to me,” he says. The bag is now too small for him, but he has been keeping it safe anyway because it reminds him of his father. “Also, it’s from my country.”

“I brought this dog,” says Shatha, 15, as she holds the small toy in her hands. She was 9 when she left Syria. “When we had to leave, I had so many toys to choose from, but he was my favourite.” She says she held him the whole way to the Za’atari camp. “I never let go of my dog…so he could protect me,” she says. “My toy dog will always be with me. I’ll tell my children my whole life story and his – because it’s the same as mine.”

The undeniable power of vaccines

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As Ukraine faces one of the world’s worst measles outbreaks, doctors and parents work together to dispel myths about vaccines.

Pavel Zmey, Nina Sorokopud and Adrian M. Brune

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The rash doesn’t usually show up until several  days after the other symptoms – a cough, fever, and sore throat – but by this time, the virus has been in the body for nearly two weeks. Within hours, the rash will cover the body, and last another week. There is no cure for measles – it remains one of the most serious illnesses for children under age 5. 

Since 2017, more than 100,000 people have contracted measles in Ukraine, with 15 deaths already in 2019 – six of them children. The outbreak has fuelled concerns over low vaccination rates in the country, caused by misinformation and a shortage of vaccines in previous years. Measles is extremely contagious; an estimated 90 per cent of unprotected people who come close to someone with measles will contract it, too.

This World Immunization Week, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are launching a new global campaign to emphasize the power and safety of vaccines. From 24–31 April, the foundation will contribute US$1 to UNICEF for every like or share of a social media post using the hashtag #VaccinesWork, up to US$1 million. In the meantime, UNICEF will continue to assist Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in monitoring the outbreak, helping the Government procure free vaccines and spreading the message that together, communities can protect everyone through vaccines.
 

[ABOVE]: Olena Kudryashova and her daughter, Maya, 17 months, walk outside their home in Kyiv. Both caught measles in 2018. Olena was infected first, before spreading the illness to her daughter. Today, Olena supports vaccination as early as possible. “Vaccination, like politics or religion, leaves no one indifferent,” she says. “But… there is no room for discussion in vaccination. It is absurd to deny its effectiveness.”

“It is easy to be an anti-vaccinator when you have no children,” admits Inna Onyshchenko, a Facebook blogger popular among mothers of young children in Ukraine. Before she was a mother, Inna spoke out against vaccination. When she became pregnant, she reconsidered. Today, her three-year-old daughter Zoryana has all of her vaccinations and Inna shares her experiences on her blog, dispelling common myths about immunization.

“It is easy to be an anti-vaccinator when you have no children,” admits Inna Onyshchenko, a Facebook blogger popular among mothers of young children in Ukraine. Before she was a mother, Inna spoke out against vaccination. When she became pregnant, she reconsidered. Today, her three-year-old daughter Zoryana has all of her vaccinations and Inna shares her experiences on her blog, dispelling common myths about immunization.

Svitlana Ovdiy plays with her son Kyrylo, 3, a tetanus survivor, near their house outside Kyiv. The infection put Kyrylo in a medically-induced coma, and he spent 50 days in the hospital. “When he heard my voice... he started crying, calling for help, but there was nothing more I could do,” Svitlana recalls. “Now vaccination is a top priority issue in our family.”

Svitlana Ovdiy plays with her son Kyrylo, 3, a tetanus survivor, near their house outside Kyiv. The infection put Kyrylo in a medically-induced coma, and he spent 50 days in the hospital. “When he heard my voice... he started crying, calling for help, but there was nothing more I could do,” Svitlana recalls. “Now vaccination is a top priority issue in our family.”

Hanna Prokopyshyn sits with her grandson Dmytro, 9, in the hospital where he receives treatment for bronchial asthma. Dmytro’s parents initially were afraid to vaccinate their son due to his condition – a concern doctors dispelled, especially amid Ukraine’s measles outbreak. Dmytro has already successfully received the first dose of the MMR vaccine and his parents plan to follow the National Immunization Schedule.

Hanna Prokopyshyn sits with her grandson Dmytro, 9, in the hospital where he receives treatment for bronchial asthma. Dmytro’s parents initially were afraid to vaccinate their son due to his condition – a concern doctors dispelled, especially amid Ukraine’s measles outbreak. Dmytro has already successfully received the first dose of the MMR vaccine and his parents plan to follow the National Immunization Schedule.

Serhiy Oliynyk, a paediatrician, holds his daughter Katya, age 1, before setting off to work at Kosiv hospital in Western Ukraine. Serhiy promotes vaccines among his patients and recently had Katya inoculated against measles. Children should generally receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine at age 1; babies at high risk of contracting measles, especially during an outbreak, can receive the MMR shot as early as 6 months.

Serhiy Oliynyk, a paediatrician, holds his daughter Katya, age 1, before setting off to work at Kosiv hospital in Western Ukraine. Serhiy promotes vaccines among his patients and recently had Katya inoculated against measles. Children should generally receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine at age 1; babies at high risk of contracting measles, especially during an outbreak, can receive the MMR shot as early as 6 months.

Serhiy Oliynyk, a paediatrician, holds his daughter Katya, age 1, before setting off to work at Kosiv hospital in Western Ukraine. Serhiy promotes vaccines among his patients and recently had Katya inoculated against measles. Children should generally receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine at age 1; babies at high risk of contracting measles, especially during an outbreak, can receive the MMR shot as early as 6 months.

Serhiy Oliynyk, a paediatrician, holds his daughter Katya, age 1, before setting off to work at Kosiv hospital in Western Ukraine. Serhiy promotes vaccines among his patients and recently had Katya inoculated against measles. Children should generally receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine at age 1; babies at high risk of contracting measles, especially during an outbreak, can receive the MMR shot as early as 6 months.

“The problems with vaccination... result from the poor communication between doctors and and patients,” says Maryana Voznytsya, Head Doctor at the Ukrainian Specialized Children’s Hospital in Lviv. She adds that her hospital deals with the consequences of other doctors’ vaccination failures. In recent years, the hospital has received six tetanus cases, with many doctors facing the disease for the first time. “Everyone should know that doctors and patients are on the same side in the fight against diseases.”

“The problems with vaccination... result from the poor communication between doctors and and patients,” says Maryana Voznytsya, Head Doctor at the Ukrainian Specialized Children’s Hospital in Lviv. She adds that her hospital deals with the consequences of other doctors’ vaccination failures. In recent years, the hospital has received six tetanus cases, with many doctors facing the disease for the first time. “Everyone should know that doctors and patients are on the same side in the fight against diseases.”

Oles Pohranychnyi, a private school director in Lviv, once believed the misconceptions surrounding vaccines – he and his wife decided not to vaccinate their three daughters. Increased risk of measles and other illnesses in Ukraine, such as tetanus and diphtheria, made them change their minds. “The National Education System should... give people confidence in vaccination and health services in general,” Oles says, holding his daughter. He now organizes UNICEF-supported vaccination training for parents and arranges inoculations for staff.

Oles Pohranychnyi, a private school director in Lviv, once believed the misconceptions surrounding vaccines – he and his wife decided not to vaccinate their three daughters. Increased risk of measles and other illnesses in Ukraine, such as tetanus and diphtheria, made them change their minds. “The National Education System should... give people confidence in vaccination and health services in general,” Oles says, holding his daughter. He now organizes UNICEF-supported vaccination training for parents and arranges inoculations for staff.

“The more openly we talk about vaccination, the more we'll be trusted by parents, because they realize that there's nothing to be afraid of,” says Ivanna Knysh, pictured after vaccinating three children in Western Ukraine. Until recently, Ivanna, a nurse, worked at a healthcare facility in Novoselytsya, a town in which 100 per cent of children were vaccinated thanks to her efforts. Now a UNICEF-certified vaccination trainer, Ivanna actively encourages doctors to help dispel parents’ fears by better explaining the procedure.

“The more openly we talk about vaccination, the more we'll be trusted by parents, because they realize that there's nothing to be afraid of,” says Ivanna Knysh, pictured after vaccinating three children in Western Ukraine. Until recently, Ivanna, a nurse, worked at a healthcare facility in Novoselytsya, a town in which 100 per cent of children were vaccinated thanks to her efforts. Now a UNICEF-certified vaccination trainer, Ivanna actively encourages doctors to help dispel parents’ fears by better explaining the procedure.

After his middle son contracted chickenpox, Igor Sukhomlyn, a restaurateur and thought leader in Kyiv, was not willing to take any chances. He and his wife immediately vaccinated other members of the family from chickenpox, and no one else got sick. “Vaccination is a valuable scientific achievement,” says Igor, pictured with his wife and children in front of his restaurant.

After his middle son contracted chickenpox, Igor Sukhomlyn, a restaurateur and thought leader in Kyiv, was not willing to take any chances. He and his wife immediately vaccinated other members of the family from chickenpox, and no one else got sick. “Vaccination is a valuable scientific achievement,” says Igor, pictured with his wife and children in front of his restaurant.

Searching for safe harbour

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As families continue to migrate from northern Central America and Mexico, UNICEF is helping protect children on the journey and addressing the circumstances that lead to their quest

Tanya Bindra and Adrian Brune

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Gang-related violence. Organized crime. Extreme poverty. All are a part of daily existence for millions of children in northern Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – and Mexico. But as families make the difficult decision to pack up their lives and travel by car, open-air truck or foot, it’s crucial to remember that they all have one thing in common. They are humans, too – only humans in need.

Sadly, many families attempting to escape their desperate circumstances experience new traumas along migration routes, including long, uncertain journeys in which they face the risk of exploitation, violence and abuse. They may be apprehended in transit or upon reaching their destinations, detained and returned to the same problems – or worse – that drove them to uproot in the first place.

There exist proven approaches, such as the creation of safe spaces and educational, recreational and vocational opportunities that aid children in transit, as well as address some of the sources of irregular migration. While UNICEF continued to work with governments in January 2019 to mitigate the conditions that push families to leave their homes in search of safety and stability, its ultimate aim always remains: to protect children along their passage.

 

(Above) A mother is bathing her child as she waits for a fast-track humanitarian visa at the Mexico-Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. While Mexico is increasingly implementing measures to safeguard children’s rights – such as the visa, which allows migrants to stay in Mexico, work and access social services – challenges persist. Around 68,000 children were detained in Mexico between 2016 and April 2018 – 91 per cent of whom were deported to Central America. 

 

“We are fighting for our kids and their future,” says Manuel. One of his daughters, Dulce, cries as she thinks about her old school. “When our daughter was in school, she was a good student. She’s very sensitive,” Manuel says. The family is waiting for humanitarian visas for Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, after a two-day journey from Honduras. Meanwhile, UNICEF has developed programmes to identify out-of-school children and support their educational reintegration through more flexible and adaptable curricula.

“We are fighting for our kids and their future,” says Manuel. One of his daughters, Dulce, cries as she thinks about her old school. “When our daughter was in school, she was a good student. She’s very sensitive,” Manuel says. The family is waiting for humanitarian visas for Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, after a two-day journey from Honduras. Meanwhile, UNICEF has developed programmes to identify out-of-school children and support their educational reintegration through more flexible and adaptable curricula.

Mariza and her daughters, Scarlet and Maria, fled Honduras after Mariza's husband became violent and threatened to kill her. She was hoping to travel from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, to New York, where she has a family friend. UNICEF has strengthened the capacity of the region’s child protection systems to identify children affected by different forms of violence, and ensure their referral and access to psychosocial support and family counselling.

Mariza and her daughters, Scarlet and Maria, fled Honduras after Mariza's husband became violent and threatened to kill her. She was hoping to travel from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, to New York, where she has a family friend. UNICEF has strengthened the capacity of the region’s child protection systems to identify children affected by different forms of violence, and ensure their referral and access to psychosocial support and family counselling.

Maria, 22, breastfeeds her 5-month-old son, Joseph, as they wait for fast-track humanitarian visas at the Mexico-Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. Maria has traveled from Honduras. “The Mexican government and people have been mostly welcoming towards the thousands of children and families crossing their borders every day,” says Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication.

Maria, 22, breastfeeds her 5-month-old son, Joseph, as they wait for fast-track humanitarian visas at the Mexico-Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. Maria has traveled from Honduras. “The Mexican government and people have been mostly welcoming towards the thousands of children and families crossing their borders every day,” says Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication.

A UNICEF-supported local NGO volunteer plays with children at the St. Augustine hotel for refugees in Tapachula, Mexico. UNICEF offices in northern Central America and Mexico partner with civil society organizations, schools and outreach centres to provide children with activities and creative outlets that keep them out of harm’s way.

A UNICEF-supported local NGO volunteer plays with children at the St. Augustine hotel for refugees in Tapachula, Mexico. UNICEF offices in northern Central America and Mexico partner with civil society organizations, schools and outreach centres to provide children with activities and creative outlets that keep them out of harm’s way.

"I feel like I have never been given the opportunity to achieve my dreams. I believe I can find my future in America,” says Maria (name changed), 17, from Honduras. She watches her young son while she checks on the status of her humanitarian visa at a UNICEF-supported shelter for unaccompanied migrant girls in Tapachula, Mexico. She says she has to stay at the shelter until she turns 18, although she is desperate to cross the U.S. border.

"I feel like I have never been given the opportunity to achieve my dreams. I believe I can find my future in America,” says Maria (name changed), 17, from Honduras. She watches her young son while she checks on the status of her humanitarian visa at a UNICEF-supported shelter for unaccompanied migrant girls in Tapachula, Mexico. She says she has to stay at the shelter until she turns 18, although she is desperate to cross the U.S. border.

Jahir, 8, from Honduras, shows off a drawing that depicts his right to eat at the St. Augustine hotel for refugees in Tapachula, Mexico. “Whether these children stay in Mexico or head further up north, it is crucial that they remain with their families, that they are kept out of detention centers,” says Paloma Escudero. UNICEF supports the implementation of ’open-door’ shelters for migrant and refugee children, where they receive psychosocial support, education, health services and legal assistance.

Jahir, 8, from Honduras, shows off a drawing that depicts his right to eat at the St. Augustine hotel for refugees in Tapachula, Mexico. “Whether these children stay in Mexico or head further up north, it is crucial that they remain with their families, that they are kept out of detention centers,” says Paloma Escudero. UNICEF supports the implementation of ’open-door’ shelters for migrant and refugee children, where they receive psychosocial support, education, health services and legal assistance.

Jennifer’s mother was killed by a gang two years ago. A NGO volunteer at the UNICEF-supported St. Augustine hotel for refugees hugs her now after she has travelled with three siblings from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Tapachula, Mexico. UNICEF advocates with government partners to build on the country’s programmes for children on the move, which keep families like Jennifer’s together. She has been drawing pictures of her journey.

Jennifer’s mother was killed by a gang two years ago. A NGO volunteer at the UNICEF-supported St. Augustine hotel for refugees hugs her now after she has travelled with three siblings from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Tapachula, Mexico. UNICEF advocates with government partners to build on the country’s programmes for children on the move, which keep families like Jennifer’s together. She has been drawing pictures of her journey.

Locally made fun in a Ugandan refugee settlement

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Cardboard, boxes, cans and cloth get a second life as playthings for refugee children in Uganda.

by Michele Sibiloni and Adrian Brune

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One of the most instinctive activities for a child is play. Whether they have ABC blocks or recycled boxes, children will find some way to make merry.

And play isn’t all pastime as researchers have found. Pervasive negative experiences can render children more vulnerable to developmental problems. Play helps form the foundation of positive encounters that keep a young brain on track, as it has for some of the 35,000 3-to-6-year-olds in the world’s second largest refugee settlement: Bidibidi, northern Uganda.

At Bidibidi, the ideas for play are plentiful, but neither materials, nor money are readily available. With a little ingenuity, however, parents, caregivers, and even children themselves, are handmaking play materials that replicate mass-produced ones – or even inventing new ones. These photos present just a few of the handmade toys being produced with support from UNICEF and the Lego Foundation.

Photos taken at two Early Childhood Development centres in the Bidibidi refugee settlement. As of mid-2018, 60 kits with 15 games each from UNICEF’s standardized play kit had been created for each of four Early Childhood Development Bidibidi centres, reaching nearly 2,500 children.

Sponge balls made by parents and children next to a set of UNICEF’s bouncy balls. Balls encourage movement, muscle strengthening and dexterity among children.

Sponge balls made by parents and children next to a set of UNICEF’s bouncy balls. Balls encourage movement, muscle strengthening and dexterity among children.

Hand-knit puppets can provide children with an outlet for feelings of helplessness and present a way for them to figure out solutions to problems.

Hand-knit puppets can provide children with an outlet for feelings of helplessness and present a way for them to figure out solutions to problems.

A homemade memory game trains a child’s brain to observe and concentrate, as well as recognize similarities and differences. Children also learn about the objects on the cards.

A homemade memory game trains a child’s brain to observe and concentrate, as well as recognize similarities and differences. Children also learn about the objects on the cards.

Locally produced memory cards improve short term memory for children and encourage them to ask questions about the world around them.

Locally produced memory cards improve short term memory for children and encourage them to ask questions about the world around them.

Homemade dominoes teach measuring, counting and pattern recognition. They also require children to learn the rules of a game and engage in strategic thinking.

Homemade dominoes teach measuring, counting and pattern recognition. They also require children to learn the rules of a game and engage in strategic thinking.

Counting circles made by caregivers help children recognize the meaning of numbers and how addition and subtraction change numbers.

Counting circles made by caregivers help children recognize the meaning of numbers and how addition and subtraction change numbers.

Locally made shape sorters train or reinforce infants’ hand-eye coordination, control in handling objects and understanding of spatial orientation.

Locally made shape sorters train or reinforce infants’ hand-eye coordination, control in handling objects and understanding of spatial orientation.

A cardboard picture book from UNICEF and one made by Sudanese refugees. Books such as these spark the curiosity of infants and encourage them to engage with adults.

A cardboard picture book from UNICEF and one made by Sudanese refugees. Books such as these spark the curiosity of infants and encourage them to engage with adults.

Handmade building blocks teach children engineering, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, in addition to the consequences of building too high!

Handmade building blocks teach children engineering, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, in addition to the consequences of building too high!

Sponge balls made by South Sudanese from patterns donated by UNICEF. Balls can be used for a number of games: hide and seek, catch, or simply to bounce.

Sponge balls made by South Sudanese from patterns donated by UNICEF. Balls can be used for a number of games: hide and seek, catch, or simply to bounce.

Twelve newborns ring in the new year with hope, possibility

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UNICEF photographs the first babies of 2019 from around the world

by Adrian Brune

In an age of uncertainty and strife, a baby’s tiny feet and hands reaching out can draw in even the most hardened of hearts. Babies represent hope and new beginnings. They are the blank slate on which we place our aspirations.

On 1 January 2019, an estimated 395,072 babies were born. As life persisted at midnight on New Year’s Day, UNICEF dispatched 12 photographers in ten time zones to capture the world’s future. 

 

(Above) Canberra, Australia, 4:06 pm: Lincoln Allen McDougall, a boy, 4.4 kg (9.7 lbs.), is kissed by mother Lilian at Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. In Australia, Lincoln’s life expectancy is 83 years, but the surrounding island countries range from 73-66 years. That could change. In mid-December, a one-month-old baby in Vanuatu became the first child in the world vaccinated through drone delivery made possible by UNICEF, the Australian government and other partners.

Beijing, China, 10:19 am:  Li Xin Yao, 3.6 kg (7.9 lbs.), lies dressed and swaddled in the nursery of at Beijing United Family Hospital as her mother, Xu Hui, rests in her room. “It’s not easy to have a child over the age of 30, but I feel very fortunate,” says Hui, who underwent caesarian section for her second daughter’s birth. The Chinese government, with UNICEF’s support, introduced the Maternal Near Miss (MNM) and Neonatal Near Miss (NNM) Care Network Assessment and Development Project to save babies’ lives and improve child birth in China.

Beijing, China, 10:19 am: Li Xin Yao, 3.6 kg (7.9 lbs.), lies dressed and swaddled in the nursery of at Beijing United Family Hospital as her mother, Xu Hui, rests in her room. “It’s not easy to have a child over the age of 30, but I feel very fortunate,” says Hui, who underwent caesarian section for her second daughter’s birth. The Chinese government, with UNICEF’s support, introduced the Maternal Near Miss (MNM) and Neonatal Near Miss (NNM) Care Network Assessment and Development Project to save babies’ lives and improve child birth in China.

Jakarta, Indonesia, 7:07 am:  The newborn daughter, 2.8 kg (6.1 lbs.), of Putri Retno Galih lies in bed at the RS Awal Bros Hospital.“Feeling nine months of pregnancy… made me realize being a mother is the greatest gift from Allah,” Putri says. Services in neonatal-care facilities across Indonesia have improved, but the worldwide infant mortality rate remains at 19 per 1,000 births, largely due to sepsis, which accounts for 21 per cent of deaths within the first month of life.

Jakarta, Indonesia, 7:07 am: The newborn daughter, 2.8 kg (6.1 lbs.), of Putri Retno Galih lies in bed at the RS Awal Bros Hospital.“Feeling nine months of pregnancy… made me realize being a mother is the greatest gift from Allah,” Putri says. Services in neonatal-care facilities across Indonesia have improved, but the worldwide infant mortality rate remains at 19 per 1,000 births, largely due to sepsis, which accounts for 21 per cent of deaths within the first month of life.

New Delhi, India, 12:20 am:  Alka, 29, cradles her infant daughter, 2.7 kg (6 lbs.), at Lady Hardinge Medical College. She and father, Thakur Singh, will soon consult their priest to name the baby. India’s maternal mortality rate reduced from 280 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 174 deaths in 2015, due to such interventions as the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakran scheme which provides free maternity services for women and children.

New Delhi, India, 12:20 am: Alka, 29, cradles her infant daughter, 2.7 kg (6 lbs.), at Lady Hardinge Medical College. She and father, Thakur Singh, will soon consult their priest to name the baby. India’s maternal mortality rate reduced from 280 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 174 deaths in 2015, due to such interventions as the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakran scheme which provides free maternity services for women and children.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 9:00 am:  Lemah Saleh, 24, welcomes Rayan, 3 kg (6.6 lbs.), at Malalai Maternity Hospital. Although life expectancy in Afghanistan is 65 years, “I pray that my son grows into a healthy and educated man to serve our beloved country and its people,” Lemah says. UNICEF works closely with the Ministry of Public Health to immunize every child with life-saving vaccines, keeping a ‘cold chain’ of refrigerators across the country to guarantee immunizations retain their potency.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 9:00 am: Lemah Saleh, 24, welcomes Rayan, 3 kg (6.6 lbs.), at Malalai Maternity Hospital. Although life expectancy in Afghanistan is 65 years, “I pray that my son grows into a healthy and educated man to serve our beloved country and its people,” Lemah says. UNICEF works closely with the Ministry of Public Health to immunize every child with life-saving vaccines, keeping a ‘cold chain’ of refrigerators across the country to guarantee immunizations retain their potency.

Kiev, Ukraine, 5:00 am:  Iryna Dyshlevich, 31, lies near her baby, 3.9 kg (8.6 lbs.) at the Perinatal Centre of Kyiv. “He is a darling little man who, I hope, will love me for who I am,” Iryna says. In partnership with the Ukranian government, UNICEF established 11 modern parenting rooms in health facilities in two key provinces, providing improved access to basic hygiene practices, privacy for breastfeeding and informational materials on childcare.

Kiev, Ukraine, 5:00 am: Iryna Dyshlevich, 31, lies near her baby, 3.9 kg (8.6 lbs.) at the Perinatal Centre of Kyiv. “He is a darling little man who, I hope, will love me for who I am,” Iryna says. In partnership with the Ukranian government, UNICEF established 11 modern parenting rooms in health facilities in two key provinces, providing improved access to basic hygiene practices, privacy for breastfeeding and informational materials on childcare.

Gaza City, State of Palestine, 7:30 am:  Samia cuddles her newborn baby boy, Mohammed, 3.8 kg (8.4 lbs.) at Al Shifaa hospital. “Nothing can describe how happy I am, but I’m worried about my baby’s future,” Samia says. As a result of the political crisis, the degradation in the water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and the energy crisis in Gaza persists. UNICEF has continued to provide safe drinking water through solar power water tanks, drinking water taps and hygiene instruction.

Gaza City, State of Palestine, 7:30 am: Samia cuddles her newborn baby boy, Mohammed, 3.8 kg (8.4 lbs.) at Al Shifaa hospital. “Nothing can describe how happy I am, but I’m worried about my baby’s future,” Samia says. As a result of the political crisis, the degradation in the water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and the energy crisis in Gaza persists. UNICEF has continued to provide safe drinking water through solar power water tanks, drinking water taps and hygiene instruction.

Lagos, Nigeria, 12:00 am:  Basirat Adegbesan soothes her newborn son, 3.7kg (8.1lbs.), at Lagos Island Maternity Hospital. “Though I was not expecting it today, God made me to deliver the first baby of the year,” Basirat says. He is the fourth child of Basirat and her partner, Wasiu. With mobile phones, UNICEF and partners reach new mothers throughout Lagos state with text and voice messages in local dialects announcing such things as maternal, newborn and child health weeks.

Lagos, Nigeria, 12:00 am: Basirat Adegbesan soothes her newborn son, 3.7kg (8.1lbs.), at Lagos Island Maternity Hospital. “Though I was not expecting it today, God made me to deliver the first baby of the year,” Basirat says. He is the fourth child of Basirat and her partner, Wasiu. With mobile phones, UNICEF and partners reach new mothers throughout Lagos state with text and voice messages in local dialects announcing such things as maternal, newborn and child health weeks.

Barcelona, Spain, 2:14 pm:  Lilit Grigoryan poses with her daughter, Sofia, 3.7 kg (8.1 lbs.), at the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital. In Spain, Sofia’s life expectancy is 84 years, while in Niger, whereUNICEF Spain oversaw the delivery of nearly 40,000 mother/child survival kits through the 2018  Cada VIDA cuenta  campaign, a child born today is expected to live to 2080. Across the world, approximately 830 women die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth – 99 per cent in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

Barcelona, Spain, 2:14 pm: Lilit Grigoryan poses with her daughter, Sofia, 3.7 kg (8.1 lbs.), at the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital. In Spain, Sofia’s life expectancy is 84 years, while in Niger, whereUNICEF Spain oversaw the delivery of nearly 40,000 mother/child survival kits through the 2018 Cada VIDA cuenta campaign, a child born today is expected to live to 2080. Across the world, approximately 830 women die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth – 99 per cent in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 12:11 am:  Aicha Koné rests with her minutes-old son, 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.), at Hôpital de Port-Bouët. “He’s really a big boy,” Aicha says, “and I hope he will be strong and have a healthy life.” The Government of Côte d’Ivoire joined the Scaling Up Nutrition movement in 2011, and UNICEF now works with civil society groups to increase nutrition interventions and to promote breastfeeding for the first six months.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 12:11 am: Aicha Koné rests with her minutes-old son, 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.), at Hôpital de Port-Bouët. “He’s really a big boy,” Aicha says, “and I hope he will be strong and have a healthy life.” The Government of Côte d’Ivoire joined the Scaling Up Nutrition movement in 2011, and UNICEF now works with civil society groups to increase nutrition interventions and to promote breastfeeding for the first six months.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 12:01 am:  Julia da Silva Reis, 3.9kg (8.5 lbs.), born by caesarian section, greets mother Viviane Dos Santos at the Hospital Sofia Feldman. Father Rafael da Silva says he is very hopeful about providing a future for his daughter. For nearly 30 years, Brazil’s Community Health Agent programme, through which health agents visit families and teach them about the importance of breastfeeding, hygiene and vaccinations, has been significantly reduced under-five child mortality.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 12:01 am: Julia da Silva Reis, 3.9kg (8.5 lbs.), born by caesarian section, greets mother Viviane Dos Santos at the Hospital Sofia Feldman. Father Rafael da Silva says he is very hopeful about providing a future for his daughter. For nearly 30 years, Brazil’s Community Health Agent programme, through which health agents visit families and teach them about the importance of breastfeeding, hygiene and vaccinations, has been significantly reduced under-five child mortality.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 3:50 am:  Sara Cléomène, 26, dresses her infant daughter, 2.3 kg (5 lbs.), for the first time at the Hopital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti. “I feel good now… Before that I had unbearable pain,” Sara says. “Only God knows (the future) of my daughter. I pray first of all for her to be healthy.” After Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, UNICEF and its partners vaccinated 756,191 people against cholera, including 288,000 children.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 3:50 am: Sara Cléomène, 26, dresses her infant daughter, 2.3 kg (5 lbs.), for the first time at the Hopital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti. “I feel good now… Before that I had unbearable pain,” Sara says. “Only God knows (the future) of my daughter. I pray first of all for her to be healthy.” After Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, UNICEF and its partners vaccinated 756,191 people against cholera, including 288,000 children.

2017 Annual Results Report: Social Inclusion

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The social inclusion outcome of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2014–2017 encompasses UNICEF’s efforts to provide all children with an equitable chance in life by helping tackle poverty and deprivation, and address discrimination and exclusion. This includes assisting governments to measure and address child poverty, and to strengthen their social protection systems by making them more child sensitive. It also encompasses efforts to improve the use of domestic resources for children, aiming to ensure that public expenditure for children is efficient, equitable and effective, as well as transparent. UNICEF’s work on decentralization and local governance helps strengthen participatory mechanisms at local level and strengthen urban governance for children. UNICEF’s efforts on human rights, non-discrimination and participation help address the structural causes of discrimination and poverty. Social inclusion in settings where there is a humanitarian crisis includes efforts around preparedness, the use of cash transfers for emergency response, and accountability to affected populations.

As this strategic plan period ends, it is evident that there have been significant advances around the world in support of reducing child poverty and discrimination. Economic growth and positive social policy trends have translated into steady declines in extreme poverty; an increasing number of governments in middle- and low-income countries have sought to introduce or increase social protection coverage, and in some cases to increase or improve the quality of social spending. UNICEF has sought to contribute to and build on these trends. The explicit inclusion of both children and social protection in Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG 1) provides an important platform for continued and greater emphasis on children as part of such policies. This is critical, given that (despite progress) 385 million children still live in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 per day) and 689 million children live in households deprived of nutrition, health care, education, or water and sanitation1 – thus being denied, from early on, an equitable chance in life.

Meanwhile, economic growth and poverty reduction have not benefited all countries. Those affected by political instability, declining revenues from natural resources or environmental disasters were particularly at risk. Such continued challenges underscore the importance of UNICEF’s continued efforts both to protect and improve the adequacy, efficiency, equity and effectiveness of social expenditure for essential social services for children.

Unprecedented levels of forced displacement and the resulting increase of children on the move were also dramatic features of the 2014–2017 period. Often invisible in poverty and other statistics, finding ways to identify and reach these children is a critical ongoing challenge, especially as both the impact of climate change and continued instability threaten to continue to uproot families.

Meanwhile, global agreements now reflect a consensus about the critical role of cash transfers and social protection systems. UNICEF has fully embraced these developments, which have and will continue to influence our work. Greater acknowledgment of the equal rights of children with disabilities has been an important achievement, aided by greater data and evidence, as well as global policy and standards in this sphere, aided by UNICEF and other partners. However, the gap in overall outcomes between children with and without disability has increased, creating added urgency for focused attention to this issue.

While recent evidence suggests a narrowing of inequalities between countries, inequalities within countries remain entrenched and may grow. UNICEF is uniquely placed to work with governments to meet this challenge, with focused, cost-effective approaches in two key areas: working with governments to universally recognize, measure and report child poverty as part of SDG and national plans of action; and devising policies and programmes that reach children living in poverty. Across this report are examples of UNICEF’s responses tailored specifically to address child poverty, from public finance for children to cash transfers for families in emergencies until governments can generate self-financed policy and programme change to make child poverty history.

Prioritizing social inclusion under a separate outcome in the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2014–2017 allowed the organization to consolidate and invest over US$1.2 billion along with the efforts of over 195 professional staff in 155 country offices, 7 regional offices, and headquarters to make substantial advances in support of greater equity for children. The key results achieved against the strategic plan goals are described in detail in this report and quantified in Annex 2.

For more of the report: https://www.unicef.org/publicpartnerships/files/Annual_Results_Report_2017_Social_Inclusion.pdf

2016 Compendium of Resource Partner Contributions

From the Forward: In 2016 – the first year of implementation for the Agenda 2030 – UNICEF adopted a bold motto: a fair chance for every child. Success in reaching the SDGs depends on leadership and accountability from government, business and civil society working in partnership to address sustainable development challenges. With the help of our champion Member States in the Group of Friends for Children and private sector partners, important advocacy opportunities for children were seized – for example, raising awareness about the global initiative on the World’s Largest Lesson and integrating the SDGs into schools, highlighting the importance of disaggregated data to ensure we capture the most marginalized children, and engaging in the preparatory process for the Global Compact to protect children on the move.

Meeting the SDGs by 2030 will require everyone pulling together, including through financing of programmes and initiatives that can drive progress across the goals. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions. Without income, UNICEF cannot deliver on its mandate to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. At UNICEF, we recognize that partners entrust us with their investments towards those ends and we want to take the opportunity to thank each and every one.

Your trust in us is echoed through the results we achieved this past year, especially for the children in the most difficult of situations -- noted in the Compendium of Resource Partner Contributions. Reinforced partnership with our donors helped UNICEF treat more than 237,000 children under five for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Yemen. “We will never forget the assistance that UNICEF provided us in these difficult times that we were going through. They came to our aid at a time when everyone else had abandoned us,” said Aisha, a woman in Yemen struggling to feed her four children. UNICEF also helped more than 19,000 vulnerable Syrian refugee families in Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq
with sustained cash assistance; gave out Rapid Response Mechanism kits containing drinking water, hygiene products and ready-to-eat rations to nearly 1.3 million people in Iraq newly displaced by conflict; and provided nearly 96,000 children with psychosocial support after they landed in the West Balkans and Greece during the refugee and migrant crisis.

Our mandate and the trust of our partners also demand that we adhere to the highest performance management standards and continually improve our operation. In addition to supporting the development of the significant and far-reaching commitments of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review – and those deliberated around the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit – UNICEF engaged with the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN). The assessment recognized UNICEF as “a mature and confident organisation whose systems, processes and behaviours are fit for purpose according to its mandate and mission, and has a strong awareness of its own comparative advantages.” In early 2016, UNICEF ranked third out of 46 evaluated aid entities on the most recent global Aid Transparency Index.

However, this is no time for complacency. Too many children are being denied a childhood. Too many have the future stolen from them. As the next Strategic Plan for 2018-2021 is finalized, UNICEF will strive to make further progress across the board, building on and learning from the lessons and evidence of the past four and, indeed, the past 70 years. We will align results with the policies and priorities to get us there, including raising more flexible and predictable funding. At the end of the day, UNICEF is a global partnership for children in need, made up of our staff, the partners we work with around the world and the supporters that fund our efforts. It is only by working together, side by side, that we can and will realize a fair chance for every child.