UNICEF no-goodniks?

While talking to the wife last night, discussing my not wanting to support the United Way, she mentioned that she had heard that UNICEF had a lot of problems with it and it was also a charity to be avoided.

Looking around briefly on the net, I see that UNICEF has been identified as supporting Palestine suicide camps as well as denying formula for African mothers formula so that those who have AIDS pass on the disease to their children.

I do not have the cites handy (and I of course question their reliability), but a quick Google search for ‘UNICEF controversy’ should turn up the same results.

Does anyone have the straight dope on these allegations or at least better evidence supporting or refuting these claims?

Well, for starters, what’s a “Palestine suicide camp”? I’m getting “palestine suicide bombings” and variations thereof, and “palestine refugee camps” and variations thereof, but no “palestine suicide camp”. Is it a totally woowoo conspiracy-theory thing, or am I just out of the loop and UNICEF (Danny Kaye!) is sponsoring places where Palestinians can go to kill themselves?

When I Copernic’d “UNICEF Palestine suicide,” the only references I found to “UNICEF-funded suicide training camps” were in Freeper blogs and an article from the “Zionist Organization of America.” There’s no need to link them, really. I’d take that claim with a huge grain of salt.

You have obviously never heard of the infamous Jawad Jones and the poisoned smoothies…

I cannot fully and factually dismiss those allegations, but I have been to Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan that had schools that operated with the assistance of UNICEF and other UN agencies. In those particular camps, UNICEF and others worked to maintain standardized school lessons, free from political influences, but it was readily apparent that the inhabitants of the camp were sympathetic to, if not outright supportive of, terrorist acts that target Israel.

After Googling some sites that criticize UNICEF for supporting “Palestinian terror camps,” I find myself wondering whether those sites would criticize UNICEF for being involved in the type of refugee camps I visited in Jordan (in which the UN agencies were strictly neutral on political issues, but the population of the camp was so strongly anti-Israel as to be possible supporters of terrorism), or whether there are other, more eggregious examples of UNICEF taking an active part in an anti-Israeli agenda than I have seen with my own eyes.

I certainly can’t rule out that the latter has occured, and it would be very serious if it has. But from my limited experience, the UNICEF and other UN agencies that I met who were working with Palestinian refugees appeared to me as the ideal of humanitarian workers: their only concern was helping children get access to basic education, health care, and other opportunities, and they went to great lengths to avoid being embroiled in any political controversy.

I read an article in Soldier of Fortune (yeah, I read it – I was so naïve at the time) where the writer tells the story of fighting rebels in some African nation. After the battle, they found food and medicine from UNICEF. His comment: ‘Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, my ass!’ I really don’t know anything about UNICEF, but that line stuck in my head.

No doubt UNICEF provides aid to Palestinian refugee camps, and no doubt that some terrorists come from or live in these camps; but the implication in the OP is that UNICEF activley and intentionally supports terrorists. I don’t think this is true. Denying formula to HIV-infected mothers sounds like propaganda to me. More likely is that there are limited supplies and not everyone gets what they need. Some of these people happen to be HIV-positive, and some of them are mothers of infant children. No conspiracy.

On the “denying formula for African mothers” front, I recall a big controversy regarding manufacturers of formula (Nestle comes to mind) providing free samples of formula to poor African mothers, and they would use it, then when they ran out, it was too late for their milk to come in.

Here’s a site discussing it, with not-quite-a-quote from the UNICEF Executive Director:
“THE lives of hundreds of thousands of infants could be saved each year in the 1980’s by the promotion of breastfeeding, said James Grant, Executive Director of UNICEF.”

So maybe they are “denying formula for African mothers”, but for a good reason.

But…what’s the United Way-Unicef connection that Mrs. Tutone referred to? I’ve Googled, and I’ve even checked Snopes, and I’m not turning up any kind of connection between them.


Am I parsing this correctly? She said that UNICEF had a lot of problems with the United Way, and that the United Way was also a charity to be avoided?

Or, should I parse it as, “she said that UNICEF had a lot of problems with the United Way and that UNICEF was also a charity to be avoided”?

Any reasons for her opinion, or just “something she heard”?
The United Way’s 2002 tax form is available online.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance reports that the United Way “meets the[ir] Standards for Charity Accountability”, and that, if they did the math right, only 5% of their income goes towards administrative costs, the rest goes where it’s needed.

There was no connection between the two organizations. It is just for other reasons that I will not go into here (there are many threads that have discussed it), I choose to not support the United Way. If I want some of their charities to receive money/goods, I will do so directly (as I do a local no-kill shelter).

The UNICEF was something that came up separately last night that for some reason popped into the wife’s head and she thought they were ‘a bad charity’ due to financial ‘stuff’ that was going on within them (similar to the United Way scandals that went on in the past). She also had other vague accusations, well, more of a curiosity on her part, where she heard they were bad to give money to.

Poking around on the net today to try to answer her questions is where I came across these other issues. One other thing mentioned that I failed to bring up was that in addition to birth control, UNICEF has given out ‘morning after pills’ and other such drugs to pregnant women to try and stem the wild population growth in areas where the land could not support them. Personally I am fine with this AS LONG AS the recipient of the pill is aware of what is going on, rather than them being told it is a preventative medication.

United Way had a lot of well documented problems with graft in the mid-to-late 1990s, including graft by their CEO (or whatever the head guy’s title was). These seem to have been cleared up, but I sincerely doubt that they’re running at 95%. Of course this depends on how you calculate numbers. United Way is a central clearing house for many different charities, some of which are “faith based”. So you in some ways have double overhead. Also UW decides on how much to allocate to a given charity within their umbrella and, IIRC, has a preallocated amount to different charities within your community. So it’s probably a fairly inefficient way to get money to tsunami relief efforts.

That said, local charities sometimes get hurt by large outpourings for big public events, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to donate to local charities.

UNICEF is the UN charity which specialises in helping children throughout the world - and it was the first one that I sent money to after the tsunami.

I have seen on other internet groups that it is labelled as a ‘bad’ charity by some americans just because of its connection with the UN - which I think is totally stupid.

Dredging my ancient memories, I suspect that the opposition to UNICEF is a spillover from opposition to UNESCO. In the Early 1980s, both Reagan and Thatcher puller their financial and technical support out of UNESCO claiming that it was too “politicized.” (Thatcher actually said that it was “too democratic” to function well.) Prior to those actions, there had been several years of hard lobbying from various (generally right wing) groups to destroy UNESCO or to “correct” its orientation.

I have a vague memory of UNICEF suffering some voluntary contribution drop-off at about the same time as fallout from the inability of many citizens to distinguish the groups after hearing their leaders disparage UNESCO.

I had thought that all that was in the past. (Near the end of the 1990s, both Britain and the U.S. began to again provide technical and financial support to the “reformed” UNESCO.) I suspect that most of the negative publicity is coming from people who didn’t get the word or people who simply (1) refuse to give up a hatred and (2) still can’t distinguish between any acronyms that begin “UN…”

In addition to what ZenBeam said, formula must be mixed with water. Clean water is hard to find in some places of the world.

You may as well stop paying your income taxes in the US, because some of that money is foreign aid for Israel, and some Israeli schools are in areas where some people encourage terroristic acts against Palestinians. This is the implied partner to the UNICEF = suicide bomber ‘logic’ trail.

Following up on the UNESCO thing, the US actually halted all payments to UNESCO for almost 2 decades, largely because it released a report critical of concentration of westen corporate media ownership. The report turns out to have underestimated the extent to which that has occurred. It’s hard to believe sometimes, the amount of hatred for the UN harbored by some Americans.

And, for what it is worth, the US Government makes very large annual donations to UNICEF, typically in excess of $120 million. These payments are voluntary, and not required because of our particpation in the UN.

We have, various, withheld payment to several UN agencies (including the mandatory contributions to the general operating fund of the UN), but so far as I can recall, no payments to UNICEF have been suspended or withheld in recent years. This makes it a notable exception to many trends in US contributions to UN agencies over the last ten years or so, and one may infer that it speaks well of the administration of UNICEF.

Some Americans, and even some Europeans would also have people turn off their brains when it comes to the UN’s corruption and lack of explanation, which is stupid also.

To be back on subject, there are a couple of reasons people aren’t happy with Unicef in the following article and whether you agree with it or not, it has some valid points:

UNICEF’s Political Agenda

The article referenced above is valuable mainly for an internal link to an editorial in The Lancet, Britain’s most prestigious medical journal. Rightly described as “scathing,” the article exorciates UNICEF leader Carol Bellamy for neglect of UNICEF’s central lifesaving mission. Money quote:

I suspect this editorial is a key part of the reason we’ve seen Bellamy figure so prominently in tsunami coverage - she’s fighting for her job, and the perception that she’s a feminist elitist out of touch with the needs of women and children in life-threatening poverty.

This is as old as 2002.
From http://www.adl.org/PresRele/IslME_62/4153_62.asp
New York, N.Y., September 9, 2002 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed “extreme concern” with recent reports detailing the “education in terror” Palestinian children were receiving at summer camps organized by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, among others. According to the reports, UNICEF funded a number of these camps.
Picture of a summer camp: http://www.take-a-pen.org/english/Articles/ChildrenME4.html

And how much of this is propaganda, exactly? The USA has been one of the main opponents to getting rid of the problem of child soldiers by raising the minimum age to 18 [UNICEF’s position]. The US government do not like UNICEF - who investigated and made public the devastating effects on children of the sanctions against Iraq, for instance. Code Word: Containment, by Jeff Guntzel, 8/14/02


Also UNICEF’s position against the use of child soldiers can be found in a number of papers linked at the bottom of the webpage on this site

We seem to be irrevocably headed down the road to a debate, here. This is a legitimate topic for debate–but not in this Forum.

[ /Moderator Mode ]