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UNICEF, partners join to help make World Cup

Jun 16, 2010, 12:48 PM

UNICEF on Friday 10th June cheered the kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as a series of partnerships and programmes around the global football championship help provide children with the opportunity to learn about their world, and harness the power of sports to promote children's rights.

"UNICEF is very excited to be able to give more children the chance to safely experience the thrill of the World Cup, whether they're sitting in the stadium or watching from their own villages," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director from New York. 

A programme, called World Cup in My Village piloted in two African countries by UNICEF, the Children's Radio Foundation and other community partners. 

It will give young people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see World Cup football matches on large open-air screens and projectors.

To this end, special screens have been set up in the Rubavu District in Rwanda, and in the town of Mongu and the UNHCR Refugee Camp of Mayukwayukwa in Zambia; places where there is no electricity or broadcast connection.

In addition to the football, the screens will broadcast important information about children's health and their rights.

In the host country, a special partnership between UNICEF and the South African government will address potential problems that may arise due to the massive influx of people. In a country where 12 million children live in poverty, special attention is being given to unaccompanied minors, some of whom may be induced to travel to the cities where games are played in search of employment opportunities and adventures.

With hundreds of millions of people tuned into the competition and the celebrations, the World Cup is a venue for many important messages about child rights for children and adults.

A massive Red Card communication campaign has been launched that sends out a message that child abuse and exploitation have no place in South Africa. Targeted at children, parents and tourists, the campaign uses digital, print and electronic outreach to warn about child abuse, exploitation, child sex tourism and trafficking.

A key ally in getting the message out, especially to foreign visitors, is Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa (FTTSA), an organisation that works alongside the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and now has 30 tourism industry companies signed up to the International Code against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. 

These partners, including hotels, car rental companies and tour operators will also disseminate messages about child rights and safety throughout their networks. The Red Card campaign is expected to reach millions of people in South Africa and neighbouring countries.

In addition to raising awareness and helping ensure services are available to protect unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable children, UNICEF has worked closely with South

Africa's Department of Social Development, Child Welfare South Africa and other civil society partners to set up referral systems and train social workers. 

Child-friendly spaces, supported by UNICEF and partners, will open at four of the major FIFA Fan Fests in Soweto, Sandton, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth. The sites are expected to host 15,000 to 45,000 fans, as well as social workers, child and youth care workers and trained volunteers, charged with identifying children who are in need of protection and emergency care.

TV screens are showing matches in the spaces and age-appropriate activities will also be offered. UNICEF, Child Welfare South Africa and other partners will offer parents the option of voluntarily tagging children and themselves with numbered wristbands to facilitate easy reunification in the event that parents and their children are separated.

HIV prevalence in South Africa is high, and UNICEF has also contributed to prevention efforts to educate young people and their families about risks by supporting the Brothers for Life Campaign. This campaign leverages the star power of some of the world’s top football players, including Lionel Messi, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry and Patrice Evra, through messages that will be displayed on billboards across the country to promote positive male behaviour, HIV testing, alcohol consumption and safe sex. 

"The World Cup gives us a chance to focus positive public attention on the special risks children face in countries like South Africa and around the world and the special efforts we can take to protect them from those threats," said Lake.

"We can use the popularity of sports to promote children’s rights and well-being around the world."