By Dom Galeon
Images by Mark Balmores and UNICEF PHILIPPINES
Earlier this month, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) introduced two of their newest ambassadors of goodwill. Longtime children’s rights advocates Anne Curtis and Daphne Osmeña-Paez join the long list of UNICEF goodwill ambassadors, which includes international icons like David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Millie Bobby Brown, Jackie Chan, Priyanka Chopra, Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Shakira, Lilly Sing, and local celebrity Gary Valenciano.
“UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors are well-known personalities who lend their influence for the wellbeing of children, who are willing to do their utmost to mobilize support for children,” says Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines head. “They are volunteers who demonstrate a high level of commitment to children and to the organization. We welcome Daphne and Anne into the UNICEF family as new UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassadors because of their strong dedication and drive for results for children throughout all these years.”
‘Everyone has it in them’
Both Anne and Daphne have long since been active supporters of UNICEF in the Philippines. Anne has been a major donor since 2009 and was appointed as celebrity advocate in 2014. Since then, she has spent time working on several UNICEF projects, including the Heroes for Children runs, a children’s book project that promotes reading and instills confidence, as well as numerous visits to indigent communities.
Asked why she feels strongly for children, Anne says she can’t really explain it. “You just have it in you. I think everyone has it in them,” the actress, model, and TV host adds. “When it comes to children, you never think twice about helping them. With UNICEF, we become a voice for bigger issues concerning children. And I am happy to be part of that, to be one of those voices.”
As an entrepreneur and a mother of three, Daphne also has a special place for children in her heart. Her support for UNICEF started in 2010, as an advocate for breastfeeding, maternal health, lowering maternal mortality, as well as pushing for universal primary education, nutrition, and child protection. Auction for Auction is Daphne’s flagship project for UNICEF Philippines. It’s an art auction that brings together some of the country’s top artists and furniture and jewelry designers for the benefit of Filipino children who are most in need of support.
“Being an advocate and fundraiser for UNICEF is something I truly treasure and take seriously,” says Daphne. “Being a mother to three daughters, I strongly identify with UNICEF’s values and vision for children’s growth, development, protection, and participation.”
Issues concerning children today
Speaking about the most urgent issues concerning children in the Philippines today, Lotta says that of particular importance is the recent measles outbreak. “There is very clear evidence that non-vaccinated children die of measles,” she explains, adding that she has never understood why people have that fear of vaccinations—whether from the supposed connection between vaccines and autism, which she says has “absolutely no scientific evidence,” or the fear that has been caused by last year’s Dengvaxia scare.
“It is a conundrum to me, why those who advocate against vaccines don’t understand how much better this world is because of vaccines—we don’t have polio, we don’t have smallpox or yellow fever, of which 100 years ago millions of people died every year. How do they think we became so much healthier?” Lotta explains. “We really need to inform people: Come on, parents, have your kids vaccinated. It’s the best, cheapest protection you can ever give them.”
Apart from this, there is also the ongoing problem of malnutrition and under education. “About 35 percent of children in the Philippines are malnourished. That’s a huge cost to the country, around $4.5 billion a year, as these kids will never mature cognitively and, therefore, never reach their full potential as adults because they are sicklier,” Lotta adds. “It’s sad because it hampers their ability to become full pledged members of society and to contribute to it.”
Both Anne and Daphne are aware of these issues, which is why they have given so much of their time, talent, and even resources to support UNICEF’s causes in the Philippines.
“My dream for every child—for every Filipino child—is that they grow up to be safe, to be healthy, and to have an opportunity to go to school. That’s how they will reach their full potential in life,” Anne says. “For Filipino children to be happy and safe—that is my biggest dream for them.”