UNICEF and You Can Make This Lunar New Year Happier for Every Child

January 17, 2023

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The Lunar New Year is a time for families to come together and look ahead to the coming year.

 

Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival as it's called in China, is also a time when parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts pass on traditions, memories and monetary gifts to the children of the next generation. 

 

These cash gifts — called "lucky money," or hongbao in Chinese — come in red envelopes and are especially fun for kids because they get to spend the money on whatever they like. But back in Imperial China, when one in four children died before their first birthday, the custom had more serious implications. Legend had it that giving children lucky money was a way to ward off the evil spirits believed to make children sick.   

 

Whenever and wherever there are children in need, UNICEF is there to help

 

Today, thanks to UNICEF and generous donors, parents in China and across Asia no longer have to leave their children's survival to chance. In fact, UNICEF's work to strengthen primary health care systems around the world has helped reduce the global under-5 mortality rate by 50 percent since the start of the century. But there is still much more to be done.

 

This Lunar New Year, as you prepare to hand out red envelopes to the children and young people in your life, please consider adding the world's most vulnerable kids to your list. Year in and year out, UNICEF is working to ensure every child receives the support they need to reach their full potential. 

 

 

Healthy eating is an important part of a happy childhood, but over 15 million children in China are obese and not getting the nutrients they need. To increase nutrition literacy and encourage children and young people to make informed decisions about their diet, in May 2022 UNICEF launched the "Know Your Food" convenience store in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

The store is filled with popular, ultra-processed, prepackaged foods, but it doesn't sell snacks or drinks; instead, it offers information on the amount of fat, sugar and salt contained in each product. Child "shoppers" have fun learning about the food they eat by playing games, working puzzles shaped like potato chips and scanning grocery items to get a receipt that lists nutritional content. © UNICEF/UN0644357/Ding

 

 

The economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe for the most vulnerable families. Thirty-six-year-old Van Veuy, above with her children, was a migrant worker in Thailand, one of tens of thousands of Cambodians working overseas for higher salaries than they can find at home. But when her employer closed due to the pandemic, Veuy returned to Cambodia so worried about the future that she sometimes resorted to “negative ways of working with the children, old bad habits and bad attitudes.”

School closures and the pressures of at-home learning made matters worse. That's when Veuy knew she needed help and enrolled in a UNICEF-supported parent training program. “I learned more about my roles and responsibilities as a parent,” she explained. From that point on, she took more time to listen to her children, play with them and fill in as teacher — something her daughter, Niza, above right, appreciates: “My mother always finds time to help me with my homework." © ICS-SP/2020/ Chhay Vivodin

Protecting the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents is a key part of UNICEF's mission. Mental health is a global issue, but stigma and underfunding have limited services and support, particularly in low-income countries. Tran Quynh Giang, a Vietnamese student who uses they/them pronouns, struggled with panic attacks in their early teens, and teachers were ill-equipped to help.

Today, Giang is a UNICEF Youth Advocate speaking out in support of school-based mental health services, including teacher training to identify students in need and connect them with the right resources. "I want to see schools where mental health issues are looked at just as any other physical challenges," says Giang. "And there will no longer be barriers, stigma or discrimination to stop us." © UNICEF/UN0729167/Bindra

 

 

In Mongolia, newborn mortality rates are going down, thanks in part to UNICEF-supported health care for moms like Delgermurun Tsolomon and her baby, Sugarmaa. Sugarmaa was born on the Lunar New Year, and since then, she's thrived under the watchful eye of her doctor and the high-quality care she and other children in the region now receive.

UNICEF has helped make antibiotics available to those who need them, health workers' training has improved and government subsidies help families afford health insurance. All of which give Tsolomon high hopes for her baby and all her other children's future: “I dream that they will become well-educated and knowledgeable people and that they will complete their education.” © UNICEF/UN0336408/Babajanyan VII Photo

 

May the Year of the Rabbit bring joy and prosperity to you and the vulnerable children of the world

As families celebrate the coming year, UNICEF will continue to reach millions of children with lifesaving resources.

We hope the Year of the Rabbit brings an abundance of joy and good health to you and your loved ones — and that together we can ensure a happy new year for all the children of the world. 

 

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Top photo: A child celebrates at a Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. © May Wong/Flickr