After four devastating earthquakes hit Afghanistan between Oct. 7 and Oct. 15, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund at the University of Connecticut worked to provide relief to affected children and families
The fundraiser took place at the entrance to the Homer Babbidge Library on Fairfield Way Monday through Wednesday this week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. UNICEF sold Halloween treats to students for $1-2 as they walked past, with all proceeds going towards helping children and families gain clean drinking water, protection from violence, education, food and medical treatment. Over the three days of the fundraiser, UNICEF raised $216.
Fifth-semester student Grace Xiong, president of UNICEF, mainly hopes that the fundraiser will not only help provide relief, but spread awareness to the UConn community on what is going on in Afghanistan.
“We want to raise as much money as we can, but the ideal goal for us is to spread awareness and be able to talk with people who may not know what is going on,” said Xiong. “A lot is going on in the news, and it is hard to keep track, so sometimes it is good to have a little information to keep your eyes out for trends.”
According to UNICEF’s website, around 1,500 people were reportedly killed in the earthquakes surrounding Herat, Afghanistan, and 90% of the fatalities consisted of women and children. In the three most affected districts, around 154,000 people have either completely lost their homes or are facing severe damage to their homes.
UNICEF’s goal overall is to spread news like this around campus. According to Xiong, throughout the academic year, UNICEF works to increase awareness of humanitarian issues and environmental sustainability and encourage people to think in the human rights framework. They hold bi-weekly meetings and advocacy chats about human rights issues, recent events and food insecurity.
The Halloween fundraiser is an annual event inspired by the UNICEF international organization’s version of the event. Xiong expressed that the organization here at UConn tries to promote what the international organization is doing.
“UNICEF as an international organization is a branch of the United Nations that advocates for children’s rights and promotes children’s welfare. Our work is to raise awareness on campus through advocacy chats and encourage students to become better advocates in order to make change at the local level of the university as well as higher levels in their future,” Xiong said.
UNICEF as an international organization is sending over supplies and health teams to Afghanistan, which is what the UConn fundraiser supports.
Xiong, along with UNICEF at UConn as a whole, hopes their work will not only help in the short term but also have long-lasting effects. She expressed that when these devastating natural disasters occur, it is not just a temporary struggle. The disasters cause “infrastructural damage that affects access to food, water, electricity and housing, that all have ricocheting effects for months on end,” according to Xiong.
Therefore, the group hopes to encourage action that will help in the long run. Xiong expressed that she is not a big fan of sending only “hopes and prayers” that just offer condolences because what people need is action.
“When we are looking at natural disasters we have to look at the bigger picture and see if it is related to climate change or lack of sustainability efforts on the international level,” Xiong said.
She believes that this examination must relate to not only supporting people or countries in the face of disaster but on a “baseline level daily basis.”
UNICEF is constantly pushing students, UConn leaders and the international community to make sure “fundamental human rights are being addressed,” and hopes to continue doing this through future fundraisers and events.