Annual Report: A great year for children

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The U.S. Fund for UNICEF's 2008 Annual Report (PDF, 2.76 MB), released earlier this month, affords supporters an intimate look at UNICEF's lifesaving work"and how their contributions make that work possible.

The crisp, 34-page publication chronicles the activities of our organization during our last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2008. It describes some of the year's exciting fundraising initiatives, educational programs, and public information and advocacy campaigns. A page of financial highlights gives readers a snapshot of the U.S. Fund's fiscal operations.

As noted in the report, 90 percent of every dollar we raise goes toward the mission of our organization, including program services, public advocacy and education.

Keeping kids safe from polio in Iraq

I'm often saddened by how little the conflict in Iraq shows up in the news these days. It was already fairly underreported, and then the election and financial crisis knocked it even farther off the media radar. The good news is that there actually is less violence in Iraq to report these days. The country has stabilized quite a bit from when I was a reporter there in 2004.

But it's still a very dangerous place. And the daily UNICEF operations briefs I read almost always include some disheartening news from Iraq. (Two recent ones contained subheads Five killed, one injured north of Baghdad and Iraq violence leaves 14 dead.)

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UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2321/Michael Kamber
IRAQ: Children follow American soldiers as they patrol the streets of a neighborhood in the town of Falluja. The levels of violence in the city have fallen dramatically over the course of the year. But critical shortages of medicines and vaccines have left nearly one-third of children in remote areas without basic services. One in five Iraqi children has stunted growth, 1 in 13 is underweight, half are missing routine vaccinations and 1 in 5 girls is not in school.

I sometimes think that one of the reasons we Americans don't want to know too much about the situation in Iraq is that it's just so complicated. There are a lot of different combative groups, and it can feel as though it's sometimes hard to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But for UNICEF, it's simple: kids are always the good guys.

Gifts that Give: Cartier's LOVE Charity bracelet

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I am always excited to buy holiday gifts that are beautiful and that give back! Cartier offers one of the best: a LOVE Charity bracelet with an 18K gold mini LOVE ring set into a cyan-blue knotted silk cord. There is also a new bracelet that features interlocking miniature LOVE bracelets in 18K white gold and 18K rose gold.

Get this: for each single bracelet with the cyan-blue cord purchased between now and June 19, 2009, Cartier will donate $100 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and $200 from the sale of each double bracelet. I can think of several people who might like this. And, they'll love it even more because it helps children in need.

The Cartier LOVE Charity Bracelet benefiting UNICEF is available in 34 boutiques across the U.S. and Canada. For more information, call 1.800.CARTIER or visit www.love.cartier.com.

The healing power of the lens “ Part 2

This is part two of a three part series on UNICEF photography workshops for kids.

Kids in the developing world and in crisis situations are no strangers to cameras. Often, as they're lined up for water or navigating the debris of war, there are photojournalists on hand to document their plight. The images that result, though captured with the best of intentions, often emphasize the great gap between the children pictured and us, the viewers.

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© UNICEF/ HQ07-2141/Archie Pah
LIBERIA: Two-year-old Mending covers one eye at a therapeutic feeding centre in Virginia, a suburb of Monrovia, the capital. She is malnourished and also suffers from malaria. The photograph was taken by Archie Pah, age 14.

Ellen Tolmie, Director of UNICEF's global photography operations, explains how UNICEF photography workshops flip the relationship. "Kids in developing countries are used to being photographed. Now they get to photograph. It's an empowerment tool, but it's also a demystifier." Suddenly the camera isn't an invasive tool used to further objectify the children, making them symbols of suffering. Instead, cameras give them the power to capture and document their own experience.

Just one minute for UNICEF

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Just 1 minute. If you're reading this post, I hope you have one more minute to vote for UNICEF on the "Our World Gives" Facebook promotion sponsored by Western Union and the Western Union Foundation. There are only eight eligible organizations, including the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and the cause with the most votes will win $50,000. But you have to vote by November 28.

So please take just one minute to vote and ask your friends to do the same. Your vote counts and can bring us one step closer to zero

The power to save a child

What if you knew a child whose life was in danger?

And what if you knew you had the power to save that child?

Of course, you would do whatever you could.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ99-0884/LeMoyne
VIET NAM: A man lifts up his baby son as he stands on their houseboat on a canal in the Mekong Delta in the southern province of Dong Thap.

Around the world, there are more than 25,000 children who are alive today but will not be tomorrow. They will die even though the medicines and technology that could save them readily exist. They will die from utterly preventable causes.

Today, on Universal Children's Day, I think we should all pause to consider these 25,000 youngsters who will not live to see their fifth birthday. It is a day to mourn their tragic and cruel loss.

I believe in zero.But it also a day to stand up and say enough"enough young lives needlessly extinguished, enough unnecessary suffering, enough squandered promise.

I invite you to join me in committing to a future in which the number of children who die from preventable causes is not 25,000 per day"it is zero.

Zero children killed by malaria, diarrhea and tetanus, zero children fatally sickened by unsafe water, zero children wasted by malnutrition. I believe in zero"zero preventable child deaths.

NewsNet: Forced recruitment of children in DRC

It is a fate difficult to imagine for an adult, much less a child:

As fighting engulfs your community, your family is forced from their home. In the chaos that ensues, you become separated from your loved ones. Around you, people are being assaulted and killed. You run, but you don't know where to go. You are terrified and alone. Soon, you are hungry. Soon after that, you are sick.

But for many children separated from their families during recent fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), this is only the beginning of the nightmare.

Reports of forced recruitment of children by armed groups are on the rise throughout the conflict-riddled North Kivu province of the DRC. UNICEF has warned that unaccompanied children are particularly at risk of exploitation. Displaced children are also made vulnerable to other forms of abuse, including rape.

The healing power of the lens

Working in the Communications Department of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I often get intimate glimpses of people's lives all over the world. Part of my work entails researching photos of children and their families, many who live in developing countries and suffer from poverty, disease, disaster and other ills.

The images range from the horrible to the hopeful: a child succumbing quietly to fatal malnutrition, preschoolers in rapt attention as a teacher explains how to spot landmines, mothers in colorful wraps with rosy infants waiting for lifesaving vaccines.

Even among these powerful images, a few stand out as extraordinary. These are pictures not just of children, but by them.

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