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Funeral service held for UNICEF staff member killed in Baghdad

© UNICEF Iraq
Christopher Klein-Beekman, September 10, 1971 - August 19, 2003

COURTENAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, 31 AUGUST  – The funeral of Chris Klein-Beekman, the Canadian serving as UNICEF programme coordinator in Iraq when he was killed by last week’s bomb explosion at UN headquarters in Baghdad, was held today at the Comox Recreation Centre, near his parents’ hometown of Courtenay on Vancouver Island. 

Carol Bellamy, UNICEF’s executive director, spoke at the funeral. “On behalf of 10,000 staff members of UNICEF, our hearts go out to Chris’s family, loved ones and friends.  We can do no more to honour the memories of those who died than rededicate ourselves to the cause to which they gave their lives. Chris, we will miss you.”

“Chris’s death is an immense loss to his father John, mother Betsy and brother Michael, to his cousins, aunts, friends, teachers and this community at large,” said Carel De Rooy, head of operations in UNICEF Iraq who also attended the funeral. “But the children of Iraq have also lost someone very precious to them.”

Calling him his best friend, Chris’s brother Michael Klein-Beekman talked of how happy Chris was when Michael and his wife recently had a baby boy, named Christian. “When Chris learned that he was an uncle he showed all his colleagues the picture of Christian and beamed with pride, saying ‘this is my nephew Chris – he was named after me.’” Michael said that the tragedy meant that the world lost a “great humanitarian.”  But the memories he will treasure the most are of  “the kid who loved playing baseball and swimming in the river.” 

The family would like to publicly express their overwhelming gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences, coming from countless Canadians and Chris’s friends and colleagues from around the world.

Parents Betsy and John Klein-Beekman wish to say how proud they are of Chris, both as a wonderful son and as someone who made such a large contribution to improving the lives of children in Iraq, Kosovo and Ethiopia during his UNICEF postings. “It is so important that Chris’s legacy lives on. We need to make sure that happens, through all the people he touched, through UNICEF’s work for children in Iraq and around the world and, here at home, by raising awareness among Canadians of UNICEF’s work.”

Nina Kebede, Chris’s wife, travelled from Ethiopia for the funeral and says this tragedy is an example of the personal devastation left behind for loved ones in the aftermath of a senseless killing.  She hopes that Chris’s legacy will live on in the continuation of his work for the world’s children, and also wishes that his death could somehow make those who commit such horrible acts of violence see the personal consequences of their actions -- not faceless victims, but cherished people with family and friends who love them.

Chris, 31, first began working for UNICEF as a volunteer, and then was selected for the Junior Programme Officer internship through UNICEF Canada and CIDA, and then became a staff member. He was posted to Ethiopia in 1997, where he met his wife, Nina Kebede. Chris was transferred to Kosovo in 2000, and then was promoted to programme coordinator in Iraq in May 2002, where he was second-in-command of UNICEF’s operations, responsible for major projects focused on water, sanitation, health, immunization, education and child protection. 

UNICEF works for and with children in 158 countries and territories, advocating for children’s rights, ensuring their basic needs are met and enabling them to reach their full potential. Guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF believes that the survival, protection and development of children must be a global priority, and that every child has the right to health, education, equality and protection. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, foundations, businesses and governments.  Through fundraising and education, UNICEF Canada is dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world.

For those wishing to make a memorial tribute to Chris, the family has asked that donations be made to UNICEF Canada.  Contributions can be made at http://www.unicef.ca/ or by calling 1-877-955-3111.  Mail:  UNICEF Canada, 2200 Yonge Street, Suite 1100, Toronto, ON  M4S 2C6. 
   
Chris’s family requests privacy during their time of grief, and that further media inquiries be directed to UNICEF Canada. 

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For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Nicole Ireland, acting director, Communications, UNICEF Canada.  Cell phone:  (416) 992-7349.


 

 

 

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