The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was created in 1946 in response to famine and disease affecting children in Europe. The goal of UNICEF, at that time, was to provide these children with food, health care, and clothing. In 1953, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) extended the mandate of UNICEF indefinitely, establishing UNICEF as a permanent fixture of the UN. The committee’s early projects included campaigns to combat and eliminate the treatable mass diseases of the time like tuberculosis, yaws, and leprosy. After the UNGA passed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, UNICEF had an official UN document around which to frame its goals. In 1961, UNICEF expanded its goals beyond improving children’s health and nutrition to also include education. Around this time, the committee also developed its modern theory on aid, which promotes a holistic approach to addressing the needs of children.
Topic A: Access to Education for Children with Disabilities
Education allows for children to create a path towards a better future, which is a fundamental human right. However, children who are disabled face obstacles when accessing education. Children with disabilities face unique challenges, such as discrimination and a lack of educational resources (funding, teachers, school accommodations), making them one of the most widely marginalized and excluded groups. Some schools lack resources to promote an inclusive and accessible learning environment. They are faced with discrimination and outdated stigmas that exist globally, resulting in governments failing to adopt policies to aid disabled children. In some countries, school buildings do not have the ramps and other tools needed to disabled children to even enter the building. Even if they can get inside, education programs aimed at serving children with disabilities are often underfunded and understaffed. In many places, there is a widespread unavailability of teachers with the proper training and background to educate students with disabilities. In 2019, the Child Functioning Module was created by UNICEF in order to give more information on how a child’s right to education was being hindered due to their disability. While discussing this topic, the committee must collaborate to create a resolution that tackles the barriers that children with disabilities are faced with.
Topic B: Combating Child Health Disparities Across Socioeconomic Barriers
Whether in the precincts of Somalia or the suburbs of Guangzhou, everyone needs access to proper health care. Unfortunately, the availability of health care in most countries is subject to socioeconomic barriers, leading to unequal treatment. No group is more affected by this disparity than children and infants of low socioeconomic status. Among children, a lack of quality healthcare does not just threaten their health today, it also has long-lasting consequences for their lives. In low and middle-income countries, “43% of children younger than age 5 at risk of not attaining their developmental potential” because of extreme poverty. In nearly half the countries with data surrounding children in poverty, “at least 25% of children under age 5 are stunted due to lack of healthcare.” One of the most common healthcare issues that children face is malnutrition, as every day a child spends without adequate food or nutrition has permanent developmental impacts. However, more serious consequences are also possible. Low-income children have higher rates of mortality and disability and are more likely to develop chronic, long-term health conditions. Most countries with extreme child health disparities also indicate that poor health in children is associated with lack of access to education, a socioeconomic qualifier. Unfortunately, healthcare funding from governments often encourages this disparity rather than fixing it. Creating policy that is inclusive for children of all identities and socioeconomic backgrounds is a global conversation that is becoming more and more urgent.