UNICEF and partners help make the World Cup a win for children

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Feature story

UNICEF and partners help make the World Cup a win for children

09 July 2010

A version of this story was first published at unicef.org

20100709_UNICEF_Kidjo_200UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo dances with children at a 'safe park' in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
Credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1150/Hearfield

UNICEF has been using the 2010 FIFA World Cup to help harness the power of sport to promote children’s rights. A series of partnerships and programmes around the global football championship are providing children with the opportunity to learn about their world and be better protected. 

A special partnership between UNICEF and the South African government addresses potential problems that may arise due to the increased presence of people. In a country where an estimated 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 adventure.

A massive communication campaign was 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. Partners, including hotels, car rental companies and tour operators are also disseminating messages about child rights and safety throughout their networks. 

Child-friendly spaces, supported by UNICEF and partners, have been open at four of the major FIFA Fan Fests in Soweto, Sandton, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth. The sites have played to host to 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 showed matches in the spaces and age-appropriate activities were offered as well.

UNICEF also harnessed the influence of international stars visiting the country for the tournament, such as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, to highlight the immense needs of South African children made vulnerable by poverty and HIV. 

Outside South Africa, a pilot programme called “World Cup in my village” has given young people in three locations in Rwanda and Zambia the opportunity to view matches on large open-air screens and projectors.  In addition to the football, the screens are broadcasting important information about children’s health and their rights.

According to Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director from New York: “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.”