Leaders from UNICEF USA toured humanitarian sites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, January 12, 2023. UNICEF and the Church are celebrating a decade of collaboration to help children in need around the world.
The delegation was hosted by senior Church leaders and the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Department at Church headquarters. They attended a dinner on Temple Square on Wednesday night with Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and Blaine R. Maxfield, managing director of Welfare and Self-Reliance Services.
'We express gratitude for the long-standing collaboration with UNICEF USA. Their work to care for vulnerable children and their families around the world closely aligns with the Church’s global focus on early childhood nutrition. We strive to follow Christ’s admonition to love and serve our neighbor,” said Bishop Caussé.
“We’re excited for this opportunity to work with UNICEF USA to help provide better nutrition and health for children,” said President Johnson.
“I’m literally blown away by everything we’ve seen,” said Michael Nyenhuis, president and CEO of UNICEF USA, during his first-ever visit to Salt Lake City. Nyenhuis is based in New York City. “You’re not just do-gooders. You’re actually called to this, and I think that calling that faith-based people have to this work makes them more committed,” Nyenhuis said.
Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services for the global Church, led tours of the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square for the UNICEF USA leaders.
“I hope you’ll see three things,” Sister Eubank told the group. “I hope you’ll see evidence of people trying to put their faith in Jesus Christ into some kind of practical action. I hope you’ll see a reverence for the dignity of the human soul, all people, whatever the faith or tradition or political persuasion they belong to. And I hope you’ll see that the ethos of serving voluntarily without getting paid outside yourself is good for social fabric, and it’s good for the human soul.”
The UNICEF USA leaders also met with the Church’s Presiding Bishopric on Temple Square.
“I think there are several areas where we can work really effectively with the Church, and one of them is in the area of immunizations,” Nyenhuis explained. “And then there’s the area of nutrition. We’re seeing a massive nutrition crisis for children around the world today.”
In 2013, the Church of Jesus Christ provided support to UNICEF Jordan with an immunization. In 2014, the Church joined a coalition of partners to support maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination programs.
The Church's support has reached 10 million women with a vaccine to keep them safe from maternal neonatal tetanus, helping to reduce the number of countries from 50 down to 12 where the burden has been high.
The first emergency partnership took place in 2015, with an effort to assist refugees in Europe. Over 115,000 children have been reached through the Learning for Life partnership, which got underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda in 2018. In 2021, the Church joined a global COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort.
“We’ve delivered 1.8 billion doses of vaccine all around the world since then and helped bring the COVID crisis not to an end, but certainly to bring it to a place where it’s much more controlled,” Nyenhuis remarked.
In addition, the Church participated in UNICEF’s No Time to Waste global program to prevent and treat childhood malnutrition last year.
“This global effort is especially aligned with the mission of the Church's Relief Society to relieve suffering, including children experiencing malnutrition,” President Johnson said. “We express our love to children around the world and are committed to the work to help end life-threatening forms of malnutrition and provide healthier, happier lives to young children.”
“There’s nobody better than UNICEF at going to the hardest places and staying for the longest amount of time to make sure that the most vulnerable children have access to the things that they need,” Sister Eubank added. “In places where the Church may not have congregations, may not have offices or trucks, UNICEF is there, and your commitment is there to stay. And I think we’ve seen the impact of that.”
“I saw the Church today really living into their mission that Jesus gave to be His hands and feet in their own communities and then around the world,” Nyenhuis concluded.
“A key priority for the Church is to provide relief to the growing levels of hunger and malnutrition across the globe,” said Maxfield. “Our contributions and collaboration with UNICEF USA help the most vulnerable children and mothers worldwide.”