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At a glance: Japan

UNICEF and Japan celebrate a 60-year partnership

© UNICEF Japan/1949
In a photo taken in 1949, boys and girls sit on drums of powdered milk donated by UNICEF to provide nutritional support to children in post-war Japan.

TOKYO, Japan, 7 October 2009 – UNICEF and the Government of Japan are celebrating a partnership that began 60 years ago this month, when a ship laden with powdered milk and other relief supplies from UNICEF arrived in post-war Japan.

The supplies were sent to aid vulnerable children and women. At the time, 3 out of 50 Japanese children died before the age of five, mainly due to dehydration from diarrhoea, respiratory infections and other largely preventable causes.

Some of the children who benefitted from that first aid shipment attended a 60th anniversary ceremony in Tokyo this week. They were among some 300 friends of UNICEF who gathered to celebrate the partnership, including Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Tetsuro Fukuyama, and government, humanitarian and youth leaders.

Japan’s key role
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman expressed warm gratitude to the Japanese people, the government and the Japan Committee for UNICEF for their generous support of the world’s children.

She noted the key role that Japan played in setting forth the Millennium Development Goals and said the world would look to Japan for its continued leadership.

Three Japanese high school students who participated in the 2008 ‘Junior 8’ youth summit in Hokkaido – and who delivered a children’s declaration to G8 world leaders that year – presented a commemorative banner to Veneman. The banner carried more than 100 messages from Japanese children to their global peers and to UNICEF.

Reducing under-five mortality
In her remarks, Princess Takamado shared personal memories of her involvement with UNICEF in its worldwide effort to counter the commercial sexual exploitation of children. She also expressed concerns about environmental sustainability and emphasized the importance of individual participation in promoting peace and stability.

© UNICEF Japan/2009/Akifoto
In Tokyo, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and UNICEF Japan Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan (second and fourth from left, respectively) hold up a banner carrying messages from well-wishers, together with former ‘Junior 8’ youth summit participants.

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fukuyama recognized the work of UNICEF and its partners in helping to reduce deaths of children under the age of five, which dropped from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. He highlighted the remaining challenges in achieving each of the MDGs, especially with regard to the environment and climate change.

“We would like to continue our cooperation with UNICEF for the future of children, so that more children can live smiling with hope,” said Mr. Fukuyama.

Also on hand for the anniversary celebration was UNICEF Japan Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan, who spoke about some of her experiences visiting programmes in the field over the past decade.

One of UNICEF's largest donors
Many of the children who grew up drinking the milk provided by UNICEF in 1949 went on to play an important part in rebuilding Japan. At least two of them were at the ceremony: Vice President of the Japan Parliamentary League for UNICEF Wakako Hironaka and Prof. Kano Yamamoto.

Prof. Yamamoto vividly recalled his fourth-grade teacher’s explanation of UNICEF’s work when the milk was added to school lunches. This memory later inspired him to work for the agency. He ultimately became UNICEF’s Comptroller.

Today, Japan is one of the largest donors to UNICEF. In 2008, a total of $153.3 million was received from the Government of Japan and $155.7 million from the Japan Committee for UNICEF, one of UNICEF’s 36 National Committees.



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