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UNICEF CEO Zeroes in on Preventing Children's Deaths Globally


Children everywhere are among the most vulnerable parts of the population, but no more so than in the developing world. 

Despite exponential increases in modern medicine, children in countries such as Sierra Leone and Bangladesh face diseases long ago eradicated in much of the world.

Caryl Stern has traveled to many of these troubled places.  She’s President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, which supports humanitarian work in more than 190 countries around the world.

The organization touts its drive toward zero – zero children’s deaths from conditions that can be prevented, treated, or cured.  It’s that effort that underpins Stern’s book,I Believe In Zero: Learning from the World’s Children, which she’ll talk about Thursday night in Milwaukee.

There are over 18,000 children under the age of five that day each day from causes that we can fix.

“Children of the world don’t see themselves of victims,” Stern says. “They are survivors of heroic things and horrific things. And they believe so dearly that tomorrow could be better that you can’t help but to get caught up in their optimism.”

In the 1980s, the rate was over 30,000 children dying each day, so Stern is encouraged by the progress, but we have a long way to go.

UNICEF works with governments of developing countries to help create better laws and care for children. The American government makes their children feel human by giving them a birth certificate, requiring education, and giving them immunizations. Stern hopes to bring that ideology to these developing countries.

There are three consistencies that Stern finds in every country she visits:

  1. Wherever there are children, there is a ball that they are playing with.
  2. Her lap is not her property. When a child comes and sits on her lap, she feels happy knowing that she is trusted by a child who does not speak her language.
  3. We all want the same things for our kids. We want them to be happy and healthy day and night.

Caryl Stern is the President and CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, and author of the book, I Believe In Zero: Learning from the World’s Children, published by St. Martin’s Press.  She’ll talk about her work this evening in a conversation at the Milwaukee Public Library, moderated by Lake Effect’s Mitch Teich.