4 things children don’t want for Christmas.


Every shopping mall across Australia is counting down the days until Christmas and reminding us of the items on all our Christmas to-do lists. Wished-for gifts have been circled or clipped from the plethora of Christmas catalogues choking our letterboxes and younger members of the family have spent hours deliberating over letters to Santa.

But while we muse over gift guides and plan this year’ gift-giving let’s take stock of the things no child will want this Christmas, but that thousands will get.

Govere, 11, of Uganda, cooks for herself and her seven siblings. Credit: Kate Holt, UNICEF

An empty table

Growing up, my children’s worst nightmare at Christmas was that someone would break into our house and steal the gifts under the tree. Now they’re all older, it’s that their favourite Christmas lunch staple of fresh summer fruits, cold meats, homemade shortbread, trifle, pavlova and all the trimmings won’t be present on our table.

For families the world over, even our relatively simple fare is a cornucopia well out of their reach. Of the 6.6 million children, globally, who died before reaching the age of five last year, more than half died of undernutrition – the term used to describe the wider physical impact on children who have an inadequate diet, and includes stunting, wasting, depressed immune systems.

What you can give: Double your gift-giving impact this year and for every purchase of micronutrients, UNICEF’s charity partner MMG will deliver a second serving.

A mother is shown how to use a mosquito net during a health clinic in Niger. Credit: Benedicte Kurzen

The irritating sting of a mosquito bite

It’s summer and though I haven’t yet had to resort to mossie coils and station a can of Aeroguard at the back door, it’s coming. Fortunately all these nasties will leave is a nasty sting and an itch I, and anyone willing to brave the backyard barbecue with me, will be scratching at for days. The rest of the world doesn’t get off so easily and if you’re living in sub-Saharan Africa, the risks are a good deal nastier than a red welt and itch. Last year more than 450,000 children died from malaria. The good news is we’ve collectively saved the lives of one million people through increased interventions.


What you can give: One of the most effective interventions to stop malaria infection is a mosquito net treated with an insecticide. UNICEF’s insecticide-treated nets cost $4 and are simple, cost-effective and life-saving. What more could anyone ask for this Christmas?

Teshome Negussie and his wife Kokeb, of Ethiopia, were shown by a UNICEF-trained health worker how to care for their two-month-old son, Moges, after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Credit: Indrias Getachewe

A day in bed

Were you one of those kids for whom a day at home with the sniffles, curled up in bed with a book or on the couch in front of daytime television was worth the snotty nose and hacking cough? For little ones though the tell-tale symptoms of fever can lead to much riskier implications. Globally, pneumonia is the No.1 killer of children under the age of five and while the infection is still a risk for infants here at home, our ability to spot the symptoms and seek affordable and nearby treatment is vastly higher.

What you can give: Help UNICEF reach remote communities with a trained health care worker. Push bikes help health care providers reach more families than they would on foot.

The runs

Salma, 6, washes her hands with soap at her community centre in Bangladesh. Credit, Habibul Haque, UNICEF

Well, let’s face it. No one, child or parent, likes a case of the runs. There’s the caught-short moments, all the extra washing, the smell and if they’re still in nappies… oh goodness. Aside from the nasty business, there’s a pretty miserable little one to contend with along with the stress of keeping liquids up to them, temperatures down and deciding on the moment you’re going to make the dash to the doctor.

But did you know that worldwide, diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of five? Last year diarrhoea killed more than 1600 children, under five. Dirty water, unsanitary toileting habits and just plain old dirty hands spread diarrhoea.

What you can give: This Christmas, give the gift of cleanliness. UNICEF hygiene kits are used in disaster zones, like the Philippines, where the threat of disease is high.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child in 190 countries and territories, with a special focus on reaching those in greatest need. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Please share to help children around the world who will be going without this Christmas.