UNICEF receives unprecedented backing from the United States

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) benefits from the unparalleled support of the United States.

The United States is UNICEF’s largest donor, with contributions totaling more than $880 million in fiscal year 2021.

UNICEF is funded entirely through voluntary contributions from governments, foundations, nongovernmental organizations and private citizens. The United Nations does not include it in regular budget allocations.

2 women distributing water containers and soap (© UNICEF/Ahmed Elfatih Mohamdeen)
A UNICEF team distributes water containers and soap to displaced families in East Madani, Sudan, June 2. A total of 500 displaced families who fled Khartoum after fighting broke out benefited from the support. (© UNICEF/Ahmed Elfatih Mohamdeen)

“The United States is extremely proud to be a devoted partner and leading contributor to UNICEF as it works tirelessly to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and provide them with the ability to reach their potential, from early childhood through adolescence,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

U.S. citizens, in turn, have long supported UNICEF’s mandate to promote children’s welfare worldwide. Since the 1950s, U.S. citizens have participated in “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF,” one of UNICEF’s largest fundraisers.

Children go from door to door on Halloween to collect change for UNICEF’s programming. This campaign went digital in 2022, with a QR code for donors to scan, but some children still opted to trick or treat the old-fashioned way.

Woman sitting with child at table covered with art supplies. (© UNICEF/Christina Pashkina)
Nazar, 4, works with a child psychologist in Kharkiv, Ukraine, December 12, 2022. (© UNICEF/Christina Pashkina)

The United Nations General Assembly established the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in 1946 to help children in the aftermath of World War II.

Child carrying box of supplies while wearing winter coat (© UNICEF/Serhiy Ovcharyshyn)
In December 2022, UNICEF delivered more than 3,000 sets of winter clothes for children who fled parts of Ukraine affected by the war. (© UNICEF/Serhiy Ovcharyshyn)

The fund proved to be so successful that the U.N. General Assembly extended UNICEF’s mandate indefinitely in 1953, renaming it the United Nations Children’s Fund, while maintaining the UNICEF acronym.

Catherine Russell, an American, has served as the fund’s executive director since December 2021.

“American leadership has strengthened the organization at every turn throughout its 75-year existence,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in 2021.

Man sitting with group of children (© UNICEF/Annadjib Ramadane Mahamat)
UNICEF Chad child protection officer Valery Nodjimadji sits with children in Koufroun, Chad, June 16. The village hosted refugees from Sudan. (© UNICEF/Annadjib Ramadane Mahamat)

UNICEF promotes children’s welfare worldwide in several areas: health, education, protection, humanitarian emergency response, water, sanitation and hygiene.

In Sudan, UNICEF has distributed critical supplies in Khartoum, including emergency health kits and essential medicines for hospitals.

Child looking at small glass building with people inside (© UNICEF/Mateusz Reklajtis)
UNICEF teams are ready to support people coming from Ukraine, as seen at this Blue Dot shelter at the border with Poland June 20. Blue Dots offer safe spaces, immediate support and services to all people fleeing from Ukraine. (© UNICEF/Mateusz Reklajtis)

In Ukraine, UNICEF is working to provide crucial support for children and families, including health care and nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene.

During the pandemic, UNICEF helped deliver more than half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to 144 countries.

“Today, UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfill their potential, from early childhood through adolescence,” Thomas-Greenfield said.