Bill Gates released his “annual letter” today, presenting a candid take on the work and learnings of his foundation. His 2013 focus? Measurement. Gates cites UNICEF and its beloved former Executive Director James Grant as “the best example of picking an important goal and using measurement to achieve it.” Though Grant is not a household name, Gates maintains that “(his) impact on the world is as significant as any profit-driven leader like Henry Ford or Thomas Watson.”
Caryl M. Stern, UNICEF USA President and CEO
From the photos that accompany this blog post, you’ll see that I’ve been traveling with a group of really tall men. Last week, NBA greats Dikembe Mutombo, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Nick Collison were on the road with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF on a field visit to UNICEF projects in northern Kenya. They visited refugee camps at Kakuma, medical facilities in Makutano, and children’s shelters in Lodwar.
But what I’ve learned about these men is that it isn’t their extraordinary height that makes them remarkable, or the fact that each can palm an infant as easily as they can palm a basketball—it’s their super-sized hearts.
Zero has never been closer. Last week, more than 700 leaders from 80 countries came to Washington, D.C. to pledge to work together to end preventable child deaths within a generation. I felt deeply proud to see so many people bolstering the fight for child survival. Ending preventable child deaths takes hard work, advocacy, persistence, and endless amounts of energy. Let’s use the invigoration of last week to propel our mission forward. There will be setbacks, of course, and there will be emergencies and other unforeseen events that demand our attention. But we cannot allow ourselves to stray from our top priority — reaching a day when zero young lives are lost to preventable causes.
This is a pivotal moment in UNICEF’s long-running fight for child survival.
Beginning today, world leaders are gathering at the Child Survival Call to Action Forum in Washington, D.C., along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID and UNICEF, and representatives from other humanitarian and private organizations. Our goal? To forge a commitment to ending preventable child deaths within a generation. This generation. By 2035.
A child’s fifth birthday is a joyful moment for most parents, a milestone marking the passage out of early childhood into the world of pre-K and grade school and upward and onward. Of course, in much of the world, the fifth birthday marks a different kind of milestone — one sometimes greeted with an entirely different sentiment: “my child survived.” That’s because in so many places, for so many beautiful children, just reaching age five alive is a battle, a battle that many don’t win — 21,000 every day, more than 7 million every year. Raising awareness about these children is a key to reaching the day when zero children die from preventable causes. That’s why we’ve partnered with USAID for a new social media campaign: “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday.” The idea: post a photo of yourself or your kids at age five. Share it. Friends can do the same and find out about the millions of children who never get a chance to celebrate being five.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF had the pleasure of hosting more than 300 board members, volunteers, and donors, along with corporate, foundation and NGO partners, celebrities, and media and U.S. government agency representatives at the 2012 Annual Meeting. Together, we heard from UNICEF experts on the latest trends and technology helping to reduce the gaps in services for millions of children. More than 16 partners from the development community, finance, media, technology, our volunteer corps, and civil society gave snapshot style presentations about their support of UNICEF’s work. Some of the most poignant elements of our annual meeting related to the remembrance of two beloved UNICEF Ambassadors who are no longer with us: Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn. Private citizens, CEOs, and college students alike were on hand to immerse themselves in our mission and our goals for the coming year. All of us believe in zero and will do whatever it takes to make the way for that possibility to become a reality within the next generation.
When a million children can be saved from life-threatening malnutrition, I believe it’s our duty to alert the world and ask for help. If we wait for the situation to deteriorate, we are allowing more children to slide further down the spectrum of malnutrition to life-threatening levels. UNICEF is focused on the smallest, the sickest and the most gravely ill – the ones who are so malnourished they are unable to eat regular food. We can’t afford to wait until the crisis reaches hideous levels – we can stop this from happening – we can stop children from suffering and dying if we can raise the funds needed to respond to the need.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF mourns the passing of the Honorable Donald M. Payne, the U.S. Representative of the 10th District of New Jersey.
Congressman Payne had an impressive career, marked by his advocacy for human rights here and around the world, for the fulfillment of human needs, and for prosperity and justice for all. He provided outstanding service to his constituents, to his country, and to the world.
UNICEF supporters especially salute him for his global work to save and to improve the lives of vulnerable children. He used his position of leadership on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to fight for the needs of those caught in emergencies, from Haiti to Darfur to the Horn of Africa. He was a key leader in the efforts to defeat malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, and other ongoing challenges to global health.
The resounding message I heard while visiting Haiti last week was that “We are survivors, not victims.” Old and young alike affirmed to me their eagerness to build Haiti back stronger, to play a role in its future and lift its people out of poverty.
Not only did I hear this message, I saw it in action at the Qui Croit nutrition center in Kenscoff, a mountainous region outside of Port- au- Prince.
Emergency relief helps people survive immediate, life-threatening hardships. On-going development support helps people get the information and tools to take charge of their own lives and futures. True change takes effort and time. There will be setbacks and frustrations. The people I met in Haiti are prepared to persevere in spite of what may come.
There is more to share from my visit but for now, I’d like to say “thank you” on behalf of the courageous people I met – for your immediate support when the earthquake hit and for your on-going support that helping Haitian’s take charge of their lives once again
Next week, I will report to you from Haiti. It will be an emotional trip, as I have not been to Haiti since late 2010 when Haitians were still trying to come to terms with the devastation around them. I am looking forward to meeting the children UNICEF is helping, thanks to your generosity post-earthquake.
As always, I plan on giving and receiving lots of hugs and kisses next week, which is the greatest reward anyone who works in service to children could hope for. I will be sharing updates from Haiti at @carylstern on Twitter.