Caryl Stern is the President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Much debate is ongoing regarding how Americans can best help the people of Japan. Today, the New York Times published an article "A Charitable Rush, With Little Direction," and it begs a simple question of all non-profits, "Why do you need my money and how will it help Japan?"
Last Friday, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF had to decide between being "first" and being strategic. We opted to hold on appealing for funds until we had confirmation about what was needed and how UNICEF could help.
Typically when disaster strikes a developing country, we race to appeal for funds in the immediate aftermath. As we saw in the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, your early donations were converted rapidly into aid that prevented further death and destruction.
In this case, Japan has one of the world's strongest economies and was extremely well prepared to address the needs of its people. Japan is a donor nation to UNICEF, not a recipient of its assistance.
Yet the disaster in Japan was of epic proportion and UNICEF has unrivaled expertise in helping children survive and recover from such extraordinary situations.
After much conversation with our colleagues in Japan, we are now confident that there is a unique role for UNICEF in this emergency response and so we have issued an appeal to help affected children. We can also state with confidence that 100% of donations will go to programs in Japan- there will be no retention. However, should America's generosity exceed Japan's needs, the remaining dollars will be allocated to assist children most in need around the globe. Though still evolving, UNICEF staff in Japan have identified some initial areas in need of support:
- Re-opening of school activities (if not "back-to-school"), in time for the new school year (starting early April), with provisions of locally prepared school-in-a-box.
- Setting up of child-friendly spaces, with provisions of locally prepared recreation kits.
- For the above and other sectors (i.e. health, nutrition, education, child protection and logistics), we are most likely to get technical support from Japanese national UNICEF staff who will be coming back to Japan to help us to deliver the above and possibly other humanitarian assistance.
Headquartered in Tokyo and established in 1955, the Japan Committee for UNICEF has a well-established network of relationships with private citizens, local NGOs, volunteers, schools and the business community. It is this very network that will be used to help identify children in need of support, and the best programs and approaches by which to make this possible.UNICEF's 60-year collaboration with Japan is one of the most significant in its history. UNICEF first provided powdered milk to Japanese children in 1949; Japan made its first contribution to the organization a year later. In 2009, Japan Committee for UNICEF raised $155 million for UNICEF. The people of Japan have been unfailingly generous to UNICEF and this is their time of need. It is a privilege to be able to show them the same generosity and empathy they have consistently provided to the children of other nations.
In times of crisis, no one is better at helping children than UNICEF. We are only able to do this because of the support you provide to us. You have a right to know how your money will be used and to make decisions about donations accordingly. We hope our track record speaks for itself.
All photos UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0434/Dean
To contribute to UNICEF's fund for Japan, go to www.unicefusa.org/japan.