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What is UNICEF?

UNICEF is the world’s farthest-reaching humanitarian organization for children. Across 190 countries and territories, and in the world’s toughest places, we work day in and day out to help children survive. To defend their rights. To keep them protected, healthy and educated. To give them a fair chance to fulfil their potential.

Our work for every child relies entirely on voluntary support, including donations from generous Canadians like you.

UNICEF Canada was founded in 1955, and is one of 33 National Committees located in countries around the world. Our team exists to fundraise for UNICEF’s highest priorities, and to work neutrally with governments and the private sector in Canada and internationally to advance the rights and well-being of children and youth. We are committed to racial justice and a more equitable world for every child. Learn more about UNICEF Canada’s commitment to racial justice and inclusion.

What does the name ‘UNICEF’ stand for?

UNICEF is the short form of “United Nations Children’s Fund.”

UNICEF was the world’s first international organization for children, established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946. Until 1953, our name was an acronym for “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund”, because UNICEF’s very first mandate was to meet the urgent needs of children after World War II. 

In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the UN family of organizations, broadening its mandate to address the long-term needs of children around the world. Although the words “International” and “Emergency” were no longer in our official name, ‘UNICEF’ was retained as an acronym.

Our mission has always been for children first – regardless of race, religion or politics – and has always relied on voluntary contributions.


UNICEF stands for every child, everywhere. We are guided by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, advocating for the protection of children’s rights, helping to meet their basic needs, and giving them a fair chance to reach their full potential.

Undaunted by war, disaster, disease or distance, UNICEF staff work day in and day out to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children with healthcare and vaccines, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, protection, quality education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is on the ground before, during and long after humanitarian emergencies, leading international response in water and sanitation, nutrition, education and child protection. Our global supply chain and local presence mean we can rapidly send help, even before it’s needed.

As part of the UN family, our ability to work neutrally with governments, the private sector and civil society generates results for children on a scale that is unparalleled. UNICEF even has the influence to pause hostilities in conflict zones – ceasefires known as ‘Days of Tranquility’ – so that children can receive medical care.

Donor support helps reach 45% of the world’s children under age 5 with vaccines, and create long-term solutions that address maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; child marriage; girls’ access to education; HIV prevention; ending violence against children; child trafficking and exploitation.


UNICEF is the only organization listed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the global leader for children.

UNICEF in the Field

Most UNICEF staff work in the field, across 190 countries and territories. Field staff deliver life-saving supplies and medical care. They feed, comfort and educate children – even in dangerous conflict zones. They are the heart and soul of UNICEF, ensuring your generosity makes a life-changing difference, and that the Plumpy’Nut® or vaccine packs you donated will reach the children who need them most.

UNICEF Canada, for every child
A UNICEF nutrition officer assesses 7-month-old Umara at a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.

Our reach would not be possible without donor support. A gift to UNICEF means your compassion will go the farthest for children in need.

Your Donations Change Lives Every Day

UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions, including donations from generous Canadians like you. Because of you, we are able to reach and help millions of children around the world.

You help us to:

How to Donate to UNICEF Canada

There are many ways to donate to help children. The fastest and easiest way is to donate online

Monthly donations are the most powerful way to ensure you’re there for children at a moment’s notice, whenever and wherever the need is greatest.

Visit our Survival Gifts® store to choose real gifts with real impact for children in urgent need around the world.

With your support, UNICEF's achieved the following results for children in humanitarian settings in 2018:

Food and vaccination

Therapeutic food
children treated for severe
acute malnutrition
children vaccinated
against measles

Water and mental health support

safe water
people gained access to
safe water
psychosocial support
children accessed
psychosocial support

Education and field assistance

children accessed
basic education
cash assistance
households benefited from
cash assistance