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Fifty years for children

UNICEF and the world responded to the needs of children, starting in the 1950s, when mass campaigns promised to end a number of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, yaws, trachoma, leprosy and malaria. The 1960s' focus on eradicating poverty grew during the 1970s into the development of flexible, community-oriented initiatives. Then in the 1980s, with economies in decline, UNICEF launched the 'child survival and development revolution', which, through simple, cost-effective methods, saved more than 12 million children's lives by the end of the decade.


Photo: Children of Greece. UNICEF was set up to meet the emergency needs of children when famine threatened parts of Europe in the aftermath of World War II. ©


With the 1990s, a new era has opened for children, with the world making great strides towards achieving the World Summit for Children's basic health, nutrition and education goals for the year 2000 and a campaign that has brought universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child nearly within reach. Looking towards the year 2000 and beyond, children are increasingly at the centre of the international human rights and development agenda, and despite the depredations of war and poverty, global progress is possible.

These pages draw on the historical research of Maggie Black on UNICEF, including her books Children First: The story of UNICEF past and present (UNICEF/Oxford University Press, to be published in 1996) and The Children and the Nations (UNICEF, 1986).


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