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

February 11, 2021

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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.   


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, over the past three decades, UNICEF's work around the world has helped cut the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by more than half.


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. Before COVID-19, they were already endangered by worsening humanitarian emergencies, violence, poverty, exclusion, discrimination and the effects of climate change, among other threats. The pandemic has made things much worse. But as the stories of the children below attest, a donation to UNICEF can help them withstand the virus and set the stage for a recovery that protects the rights and futures of every child.



Students in Datong County, in China’s Qinghai Province, hold up a health education leaflet UNICEF developed that's helping them stay healthy. Knowing how to protect themselves from COVID-19 means children who’d been learning remotely could safely return to the classroom. UNICEF also provided 150,000 masks, 1,200 bottles of hand sanitizer, 25,000 bars of soap and 179 thermometers to primary schools in eight counties across the province located in central China. © UNICEF/China/2020/Wang Jing



COVID-19's economic and social impact on Cambodia’s most vulnerable families is severe.Thirty-six-year-old Van Veuy (with her children, above) started 2020 as 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 sometimes she 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 UNICEF-supported parenting training. “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



Two-year-old Jang Hun and his mother, Pae Hye Sim, live in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, where regular checkups with UNICEF-supported doctors have kept Jang Hun healthy and up-to-date on the vaccines that protect him from childhood idiseases. COVID-19 has disrupted immunization services globally, but not in DPR Korea. Thanks to strong cold-chain management to keep vaccines at stable temperatures and the close collaboration between DPR Korea’s Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF, children like Jang Hun have not suffered from vaccine shortages or lapses in care. “I am delighted that we are able to continue vaccination services for children in DPR Korea. We have overcome challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic ... by making sure that children are free from vaccine-preventable diseases, giving them a chance to grow up healthy and reach their full potential,” said DPR Korea's UNICEF representative Myo-Zin Nyunt. © UNICEF/UN0322846/Nazer



Ho Van is thrilled that he finally has what many people worldwide take for granted: safe drinking water at home. After seven consecutive tropical storms and cyclones hit central Vietnam, where Ho Van lives, last fall, landslides and cascading floods damaged the water and sanitation systems serving homes, health facilities and schools. To prevent families like Ho Van’s from getting sick from waterborne diseases, a UNICEF water and sanitation specialist delivered a ceramic water filter to their home and showed them how to use it. By late January, UNICEF's broad-based emergency response had reached 51,207 people, including women and children from the most vulnerable households. © UNICEF/UN0410229/Le Vu



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 all the 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


Whenever and wherever children need help, UNICEF is there, delivering the nutrition, health care, clean water, education and protection every child needs to live a full, happy and healthy life. 


We hope the Year of the Ox 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: Guoguo plays with his parents in Aijia Village, in China's Hubei province, where a UNICEF Early Childhood Development Center is helping mothers and fathers give their children the very best start in life. © UNICEF/UN06119/Xia