About Us

UNICEF and China have a long history of collaboration. In 1947, China became the first country in Asia to welcome a partnership with UNICEF, and our first programme provided emergency relief services to children.

Between 1948 and 1951, our work in China included child feeding, as well as training to build capacity for maternal and child health care, sanitation and first aid. This training programme later influenced China's “barefoot doctor” rural healthcare system.

During these early years, we helped children on both sides of the conflict. This support was the first instance of UNICEF's hallmark principle of non-partisan humanitarian response and the foundation of our future methodology.

Our partnerships in China resumed in 1979. Since that time, we have contributed to many of China's most significant developments for children.


We supported the Ministry of Health to accelerate broad scale vaccination of children younger than six. Many vaccines require refrigeration, which China's remote areas at the time lacked. We helped establish a refrigeration network, called a “cold chain,” that eventually covered almost 90% of the population. This significantly improved the quality of China's immunization programme, leading to sharp reductions in child deaths due to measles, polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

We also began to work directly with local government agencies in poorer, rural areas, including in ethnic minority communities. Our first water and sanitation project began in 1987 in Yunnan, where a high child mortality rate correlated to a lack of access to clean water. We collaborated on laying water pipeline, installing rainwater catchment tanks, and building toilets. Within a year, the rate of diarrhoea among young children dropped from 45% to 4.5%.


We worked closely with the Ministry of Health to reduce the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders, which include goiters, as well as physical and mental impairments. We supported efforts to promote consumption of iodized salt to reduce iodine deficiency. Today, more than 90% of households consume iodized salt, an achievement hailed as a key follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children.

We were also among the first international organizations to collaborate with the government on HIV and AIDS programming. Our work on HIV prevalence, care, prevention, community education and awareness among young people started in 1996 and has continued to the present. Our ongoing Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign mobilizes thousands of HIV/AIDS Youth Ambassadors across the country.


We collaborated with the Government of China on many significant pilot projects that pioneered successful best practices in areas of health and nutrition, education, child protection, HIV and AIDS, water and sanitation, and emergency response and preparedness. These pilots have been replicated on a wider scale and influenced the development of national programmes and policies.

Some examples include:

  • the Mother-Baby Package pilot project, which provided comprehensive maternal-child health services and information, and which contributed to dramatic reductions in rates of maternal mortality.
  • the Child Friendly Schools pilot project, which makes schools safer, better managed, more interactive and participatory.
  • the Shijiazhuang migrant children pilot project, which supports improved access to health care and education for migrant children.
  • the Early Childhood Development pilot project, which enables children between the ages of three and six to attend quality community-based pre-school that provides a constructive and stimulating learning environment.
  • the Wenchuan earthquake Child Friendly Spaces project, which in the aftermath of the earthquake provided safe places for children to play and learn.
  • the Child Welfare Demonstration  Project, which is contributing to the establishment of China's child welfare system to support vulnerable children through family and community-based services and resources for children who otherwise would not access assistance. 

For more information about our history of work in China and the benefits to children resulting from our partnerships with the Chinese government, see this photo essay of our history in China or download our 30th anniversary publication, “A Partnership for Children.”


China has made impressive progress improving the lives of children and women. With every advance, however, new challenges arise, and UNICEF continues to help develop best practices for managing these evolving issues. We currently collaborate on programming in many areas, a few of which include: supporting children affected by HIV and AIDS , preventing child trafficking, expansion of early childhood development services and improving school quality . To learn more about our current programming, see the What we do section of our website. Or find out how you can support our work today. 

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