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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PARIS, Monday—Two of the items that are coming up before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, on which I work, are the report on the Children's Emergency Fund and the resolution passed by the Economic and Social Council on the United Nations Appeal for Children.

I find great confusion in the minds of many people about these two matters, and I think it is very important that the difference between them be clearly understood so that we all know exactly what has been done and what will be done under certain circumstances.

Let me first take up the Children's Emergency Fund.

This fund grew out of the fact that when the UNRRA came to an end there was great concern about what would happen to many children throughout Asia and Europe who would be cut off from UNRRA supplies.

Here was one field in which the victims of war were not responsible for their country's political or economic beliefs. They had nothing to do with the causes of war. Their sufferings were the result of the war, but they were the innocent and helpless victims. Whether they were found in Roumania, lying in hospital wards unable to move because of famine in certain provinces, or whether they were in Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Germany or France, these children needed food and medical attention.

The Children's Emergency Fund was therefore set up in the hope that it would receive some of the UNRRA funds during the latter's period of dissolution and in the hope that the governments of the various countries, while they were doing all they could for their own children, also would make a contribution to be used for needy children everywhere.

It has been found that often governments on the receiving end of the fund's supplies would make a contribution in kind. For instance, if a country had a surplus of sugar or cotton it would make a shipmen of one of these items in return for powdered milk, cod liver oil and anti-tuberculosis serum.

The sums of money that have been appropriated to the Children's Emergency Fund have meant that only a small amount of relief could be given. But even this small relief has meant a great deal and the fund's committee has envisaged research clinics that would make it possible to study the present problems of children and new and cheap foods and preventatives for disease. Some day these clinics should be situated in various parts of the world and make a very great contribution to the welfare of children. At present the main work has been to supplement what food the countries themselves could furnish their own children and to portion it out on a basis of need, using all possible existing agencies at work in the field for purposes of distribution. The organization itself now has only a very small supervisory, travelling personnel, with its main work being done through government committees in countries where the aid is given.

I recall a question being raised in our Congress as to whether this food was given to countries behind the Iron Curtain and in Russian satellite countries. I think whoever brought it up surely was not intending to suggest that many children should be left to starve and suffer because their governments held political beliefs with which we could not agree.

From my point of view, this fund, which may recieve contributions not only from governments but from private organizations and individuals, should receive all the support we can possibly give it. I would like to see a co-ordinated and concerted drive in our country next year so that private gifts as well as government funds would be turned over to the Children's Emergency Fund.

The United Nations Appeal for Children is an entirely different set-up. This organization was conceived by Dr. Aake Ording, of Norway who suggested that people all over the world should be asked to give one day's pay once a year for the relief of children of all nations, with some of the funds also going to the Children's Emergency Fund or other agencies working in the field for the same end.

Dr. Ording's idea appealed to the General Assembly, and a resolution was passed, setting up a small organization in the Secretary General's office to co-ordinate and stimulate campaigns to be carried on in the different countries and to furnish them with information that would be helpful in their initial appeals. This organization was started and succeeded very well in some countries, such as Australia, moderately well in others and very badly in still others, notably the United States where the drive was made in connection with other overseas aid agencies and fell very far short of its goal.

At the last meeting of the Economic and Social Council a resolution was passed to bring this appeal to an end this coming January, so far as the responsibility of the Secretary-General's office was concerned, but to encourage individual nations to continue their efforts to help the Children's Emergency Fund.

The question is now before this current General Assembly meeting as to whether to sustain this resolution or to change its policy and extend the life of the United States appeal.

Australia, which had such a very successful campaign, feels this fund-raising drive had great value in acquainting the people with something actually tangible undertaken by the United Nations. It brought the average person closer to the world organization. The feeling of the United States is that it is a mistake to burden the Secretary-General's office with an organization that can never be adequate enough really to watch over what is done in each nation.

Fundamentally, there seems to be a question as to whether there is a valid reason why one appeal should be put forth under the name of the United Nations when there are so many other important causes that perhaps should also demand the respect and consideration and prestige of a United Nations appeal. We believe more money would be raised if every nation were responsible for its own fund and was able, if it wishes to set a quota, to use it in its own country, giving a certain percentage to the Children's Emergency Fund of the United Nations.

In this way a nation's own children would benefit along with children of other countries that might not be able to raise sufficient funds. For example, fund-raising drives might be called the Haitian Appeal for Children or the Belgian Appeal for Children, which would include a domestic interest and still serve the purpose of interesting people in the United Nations, since one of its main objectives would be to furnish funds for children in need throughout the world.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Paris (France) [ index ]
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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 5, 1948

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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