nicef has defended its support for UK children following accusations by a government a frontbencher that it “should be ashamed of itself”.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), renowned for its support in war-torn and disaster-ravaged countries, stepped to support feeding UK children for the first time in its history. The UK government has flip-flopped over the matter.
According to Unicef, before the pandemic struck, 2.4 million UK children were in food-insecure households. Since lockdowns began in March 2020, the number of families facing hardship has risen sharply as unemployment rises.
On Thursday, Unicef UK’s Director of Programmes and Advocacy, Anna Kettley said, “Unicef will continue to spend our international funding helping the world’s poorest children. We believe that every child is important and deserves to survive and thrive no matter where they are born.”
Unicef began to fund UK programmes in August this year, while ongoing government support for free school meals during holidays remained uncertain. Unicef estimates that now a fifth of children in the UK households are going hungry.
It has awarded grants to 30 UK community projects, hoping to reach between 10,000 and 15,000 young people before its end in April 2021.
“When NGO assistance is required, only government mismanagement is to blame”
In November England footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford welcomed the support. They said, “Unicef UK’s emergency response is vital for our most vulnerable communities.
“Given the impact of the pandemic, families are struggling more than ever to put food on the table.
“We must keep fighting for a long-term sustainable solution to combating child food poverty in the UK.
“We must prepare and equip all children to succeed in their adult lives and that work starts now, by stabilising households and building out an effective food access foundation.”
Food systems experts were dismayed at the House of Commons exchange, in which Unicef was criticised, with one saying, “At best this is politicising a humanitarian intervention, at worst it’s gaslighting our most destitute citizens.”
Unwilling to be named, to avoid further inflaming the political spat, food systems policy experts were quick to point out that only a government is responsible for feeding its citizens and added, “A well-managed government in a wealthy country does not rely on food banks. When proliferation of food banks and NGO assistance are required, only government mismanagement is to blame.”
Anna Kettley said on Thursday, “Unicef UK is responding to this unprecedented crisis and building on our 25 years’ experience of working on children’s rights in the UK with a one-off domestic response that is launched in August, to provide support to vulnerable children and families around the country during this crisis period.”