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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Ex officio member: Ms Carol Bellamy, Executive Director
Board member: Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Senior Advisor and Team Leader of Immunization Plus

UNICEF logoFounded in 1946, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.

UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.

UNICEF’s main function is to mobilise political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure "first call for children" and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families.

UNICEF gives high priority to country programme operations. At country level, UNICEF works with other UN agencies, governments and civil society organisations to lighten children’s loads through support to community-based services in primary health care, basic education, and safe water and sanitation. For over a decade, as part of its mandate to promote child survival, UNICEF has advocated, mobilised resources and built capacity in government systems and communities to ensure that children receive basic immunization services. UNICEF, the world’s largest purchaser of vaccines for developing countries, is a key partner in global immunization efforts.

UNICEF, with world headquarters in New York and Geneva, maintains programmes in 161 countries, with 86 per cent of its staff posts located in the field. Its Supply Division, based in Copenhagen, is responsible for global purchasing, including some $100 million per year spent on vaccines and safe injection equipment.

The 37 National Committees for UNICEF, mostly in the industrialized world, are nongovernmental organizations that support UNICEF in advocacy for children and fundraising.

UNICEF’s role in GAVI

In the 1980s, UNICEF was a major force behind the drive for Universal Child Immunisation, which saw 80 per cent of the world’s children immunized against the six vaccine-preventable diseases. Throughout the 1990s, UNICEF’s work in immunization was guided by the commitments made at the 1990 World Summit for Children and the principles of the Convention for the Rights of the Child. Through its long experience, UNICEF has gained expertise and skills in ensuring that immunization is on the political agenda of governments; in helping communities and families to understand the importance of preventive health and immunization, in particular; and in vaccine procurement.

UNICEF is a partner in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Ms. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, is an ex-officio member of the GAVI Board, having been chair of the GAVI Board until December 2003. UNICEF also chaired the GAVI Task Force on Advocacy, which was responsible for coordinating global advocacy and communications efforts of the GAVI partners. UNICEF continues to manage the GAVI Trust Fund, which disperses collective funds for activities approved by the GAVI Board.

For more information about UNICEF or immunization, visit

GAVI Partners

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation



The World Bank Group

Developing Country Governments

Nongovernmental Organization

Industrialized Country Governments

Research Institutes

Vaccine Industry-Industrialized Country

Technical Health Institutes

Vaccine Industry-Developing Country

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