UNICEF has announced the launch of UNICEF Kid Power, an innovative child health initiative that encourages elementary school-age kids in the United States to get physically active in order to help save the lives of their peers in developing countries. Kicking off in New York, Boston and Dallas in March 2015, the month-long initiative will leverage the power of technology together with movement-based curriculum and activities to promote fitness among American students. Kid Power will simultaneously help UNICEF—the world’s largest purchaser and distributor of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food—provide lifesaving nutrition to severely malnourished children around the world.
UNICEF Kid Power is sponsored by the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF and backed by Mayors Bill de Blasio (New York), Marty Walsh (Boston) and Mike Rawlings (Dallas), and supported by local sports teams and players including the Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks. Over the course of the 30-day program, sports teams will encourage kids to stay active by cheering them on with classroom visits, recognizing the young philanthropists at home games and more.
“Malnutrition is responsible for over a third of all deaths of children under the age of five globally. By putting children first, we believe we can reach a day when no child dies of a cause we know how to prevent,” said U.S. Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Caryl M. Stern. “I can’t think of a better motivator for kids to get active than the fact that they’re helping save lives. We’re grateful to the cities of New York, Boston and Dallas, their sports teams and all the teachers, students and parents who are getting involved in helping malnourished children get the treatment they need to survive.”
Beginning in March, some 10,000 participating elementary school students will monitor their physical activity with UNICEF Kid Power fitness bands that displays the number of steps taken and number of points earned. Program supporters will convert students’ points into monetary donations toward the purchase of therapeutic food. A full day of physical activity—12,000 steps—will translate into five Kid Power Points. Every five Kid Power Points earned will convert to one packet of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a specially-designed protein and vitamin-rich peanut paste that is used to save the lives of children with severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition if left untreated. The UNICEF Kid Power program also includes in-classroom curriculum and educational activities focused on childhood malnutrition.
“Through UNICEF Kid Power, children are learning the importance of a healthy lifestyle and, at the same time, how good it can feel to give back to others,” said UNICEF Ambassador and Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler. “I’m excited to be part of a program that’s bringing positive change not only to kids in Dallas and other U.S. cities, but to children in need all around the world.”
The three-city launch follows a successful four-week pilot program this past October in Sacramento, where nearly 900 students, teachers and teaching assistants at six schools tested the potential of UNICEF Kid Power with the support of the Sacramento Kings and Mayor Kevin Johnson. According to an assessment by independent evaluators, school kids engaged in the program were 55 percent more active than those not participating in the initiative. UNICEF Kid Power participants in Sacramento also earned enough therapeutic food packets for 473 severely malnourished children to complete a full course of treatment.[i] The U.S. Fund for UNICEF aims to launch UNICEF Kid Power in additional cities in the Fall of 2015 and into 2016.
Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment. Until recently, severely malnourished children had to receive medical care and a therapeutic diet in a hospital setting. With the recent advent of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, large numbers of children who are severely malnourished can be treated successfully in their communities, which has the potential to transform the lives of millions of malnourished children.
In the tradition established by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF continues to fund innovative programs that support the rights of children worldwide, and now their generous support has allowed the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to pursue this 21st century approach to global citizenship.
For more information on UNICEF Kid Power, please visit www.unicefkidpower.org.