Young women in India helped by UNICEF

When the world’s preferred purveyor of difficult-to-pronounce duvet covers isn’t busy erecting car-free mini-cities, opening budget hotels, (allegedly) clear-cutting ancient Russian forests, pushing printed books to the brink of extinction, and wrangling randy Chinese seniors at its Shanghai store, IKEA has managed to do a few good, humanitarian deeds.


This month, the Swedish home furnishings behemoth is celebrating its 10-year partnership with UNICEF by revealing the impact that the collaboration has had on the lives of children in India. UNICEF is just one of the IKEA Foundation’s (the do-gooding, child welfare-centric branch of the mega-retailer) key partners along with Save the Children, Refugees United and others. In all, the IKEA Foundation is the largest corporate cash donor to the 65-year-old United Nations humanitarian program. The funding comes from a variety of sources including IKEA's Soft Toys for Education campaign, the sale of UNICEF holiday greeting cards (a tradition that dates back to 1988), grants and more. Of all the UNICEF/IKEA activities, this one from 2009 is perhaps my favorite. 


The India partnership, launched in the carpet-producing northern state of Uttar Predash, was extended in 2006 to Andrah Pradash with a campaign to end child labor within cotton-producing operations. In 2008, the partnership expanded even further to 15 other Indian states where 28 million children are engaged in child labor and around 4,700 children under the age of 5 die each day. IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes states that more than $125 million has been contributed to UNICEF projects in India over the course of the 10-year partnership and 74 million children have been affected.


“IKEA’s leadership has made a lasting impact in the lives of children around the world. More children are getting the nutrition they need to survive and thrive, more children have access to safer water and better sanitation, and more children are learning in schools instead of being exploited in illegal labor. UNICEF looks forward to the next decade of this remarkable partnership with IKEA,” said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake in a statement released earlier this month.


Here’s a look at the impact that the partnership has had thus far in the realms of both children’s rights and education as well as improved sanitation, health, and living conditions.


• 370,000 children have been screened for malnourishment while 56,500 of them have been treated.


• 32 million homes now have toilets while 67 percent of schools now have access to toilets, improved drinking water, and hand-washing facilities.


• 15,000 children in India’s cotton- and carpet-producing regions now attend “normal” schools after being taught basic reading, writing, and math skills in bridge schools.


• 600 new Child Protection Committees have been established to end child labor practices.


• Children in 13,120 schools across the country have benefited from newly trained teachers and better curriculum.


• 2.14 million women have been taught the benefits of breastfeeding their children.


• More than 500,000 leaders, community members, and officials have been trained to protect children in the target regions. 


Congrats to both IKEA and UNICEF on the huge impact they've made over the last decade. In other UNICEF related news, it's worth checking out this Pinterest board recently created by the organization for a young girl in Sierra Leone. Says Co.Create's Joe Berkowitz of the board: "UNICEF has turned that naked consumerism on its head with a Pinterest board that showcases a human being’s most basic wants."


And in case you were curious, no, there are currently not any IKEA stores in India although that may all change very, very soon.


Photo: The IKEA Foundation


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Humanitarian bliss: IKEA and UNICEF celebrate 10 years of work in India
Ever wonder where the money goes when you buy those UNICEF holiday cards at IKEA? This month, the humanitarian organization and the retailer celebrate 10 years