20/11/2014 06:11 GMT | Updated 19/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Child Rights Anniversary Places Spotlight on Ebola

Twenty-five years ago, the world made a commitment to all its children: that we would do everything in our power to promote and protect their rights.

On 20 November 1989, governments across the globe adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention stated that all children have the right to healthcare, nutritious food, education, freedom from violence and exploitation, and the time and space to play. Governments also committed to putting the best interests of children first in all decisions, and giving children a voice, in all decisions that affect them. The CRC was an historic, brave and genuinely radical statement of values and principles that set the stage for a transformation in how the all of us can help to give children and young people the very best chances in life.

The Convention is now the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history with 194 States having ratified this celebrated agreement. But commitments need to be backed by action and resources if change for children is to become real. Since the convention was adopted great progress has indeed been achieved on children's rights. Half as many children are now dying before their fifth birthday than was the case 25 years ago and millions more children are now able to access education.

In every region of the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has inspired changes in laws to better protect children, altered the way international organisations see their work for children, and transformed the way children are able to participate in their communities and societies. Today, children across the UK and the world are celebrating this momentous day.

However, looking back on 25 years of progress reminds us how much is left to do. Millions of children around the world are still not able to access the rights the world has promised them. Children are facing violence, abuse, exploitation, disease, hunger and the chaos of war and disaster. We can celebrate the achievements of the Convention but must also all join together to maintain momentum and progress, in the face of many challenges. As the world debates its next set of development goals in 2015, it is vital that the rights of children remain at the centre of the agenda.

One enormous challenge to children's rights today is the deep impact of West Africa's Ebola emergency, the largest and deadliest the world has ever seen.

Over 5,000 people have already died and over 14,000 have been infected in the three worst affected countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. One in five Ebola patients are children and the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that by December, there could be 10,000 new cases every week.

If this was not enough, fear, misconceptions and rumours are fuelling the spread of Ebola and complicating the humanitarian response.

Ebola is not only denying children their right to be healthy, it is also having huge impacts on other crucial aspects of their lives. Over 7,000 children have been orphaned by the disease, losing one or more parents, and facing stigma and discrimination. Around five million children in the three worst affected countries are being denied an education because schools have been closed.

Unicef is doing everything we can to beat Ebola, providing essential supplies for treatment units and community care centres, and also leading on raising awareness among communities and working to counter the dangerous myths and misconceptions that exist. But we need everyone's help to ensure that, even in this crisis, children's rights can be respected and supported. The world's promise to children, 25 years ago, can only be achieved if all children's rights are realised, including the most disadvantaged. No child can be left behind, especially in crises and emergencies where they face the greatest danger.

If we are to prevent the spread of Ebola, and ensure every child is able to access the rights we have promised them, we urgently need more money. Earlier this week the Scotland and England football teams united to call on the UK public to support our appeal and help us reach every child affected by the outbreak.

This week, if you donate to Unicef UK's Ebola Appeal the UK Government will match your donation pound for pound, helping us reach twice as many children in danger of being denied their most important rights - the right to live, and enjoy a happy, healthy childhood.

To donate to Unicef UK's emergency Ebola Appeal please go to or text KIT to 70020 to donate £5