The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II. The Polish physician Ludwik Rajchman is widely regarded as the founder of UNICEF and served as its first chairman from 1946. On Rajchman's suggestion, the American Maurice Pate was appointed its first executive director, serving from 1947 until his death in 1965. In 1950, UNICEF's mandate was extended to address the long-term needs of children and women in developing countries everywhere. In 1953 it became a permanent part of the United Nations System, and the words "international" and "emergency" were dropped from the organization's name, making it simply the United Nations Children's Fund, retaining the original acronym, "UNICEF".
UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. UNICEF's total income for 2015 was US$5,009,557,471 . Governments contribute two-thirds of the organization's resources. Private groups and individuals contribute the rest through national committees. It is estimated that 92 per cent of UNICEF revenue is distributed to program services. UNICEF's programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 and the Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006.
Most of UNICEF's work is in the field, with a presence in 190 countries and territories. UNICEF's network of over 150 country offices, headquarters and other offices, and 34 National Committees carry out UNICEF's mission through programs developed with host governments. Seven regional offices provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.
UNICEF's Supply Division is based in Copenhagen and serves as the primary point of distribution for such essential items as vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, family reunification, and educational supplies. A 36-member executive board establishes policies, approves programs and oversees administrative and financial plans. The executive board is made up of government representatives who are elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, usually for three-year terms.
Each country office carries out UNICEF's mission through a unique program of cooperation developed with the host government. This five-year program focuses on practical ways to realize the rights of children and women. Regional offices guide this work and provide technical assistance to country offices as needed. Overall management and administration of the organization takes place at headquarters, where global policy on children is shaped. Guiding and monitoring all of UNICEF's work is a 36-member Executive Board made up of government representatives. They establish policies, approve programs and decide on administrative and financial plans and budgets. Executive Board’s work is coordinated by the Bureau, comprising the President and four Vice-Presidents, each officer representing one of the five regional groups. These five officers, each one representing one of the five regional groups, are elected by the Executive Board each year from among its members, with the presidency rotating among the regional groups on an annual basis. As a matter of custom, permanent members of the Security Council do not serve as officers of the Executive Board. Office of the Secretary of the Executive Board supports and services the Executive Board. It is responsible for maintaining an effective relationship between the Executive Board and the UNICEF secretariat, and helps to organize the field visits of the Executive Board.
There are national committees in 34 countries, each established as an independent local non-governmental organization. The national committees raise funds from the public sector.
UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions, and the National Committees collectively raise around one-third of UNICEF's annual income. This comes through contributions from corporations, civil society organizations around six million individual donors worldwide.