At UNICEF, we feel lucky that our work allows us to meet so many amazing dads across the world. Some of our staff are fathers themselves, just like a lot of our donors, so we have that special understanding of fatherhood and what it takes to make sure our children have a supportive and loving childhood. That’s why, we’re celebrating Father's Day by sharing the stories of some of the dads we’ve been fortunate to meet. They’ve endured through hardships caused by conflict, disasters, and health crises to keep their kids happy and safe. Their stories also show the various barriers many fathers face that stop them from spending quality time with their children or providing for their families.
A young girl cries saying goodbye to her father while boarding a a special evacuation train with her brother and mother.
Conflict is devastating for anyone to have to live through. It’s forced fathers like Olexander in Ukraine to join the military forces to defend his country.
It means Olexander has had to leave his loved one's and wave goodbye to them as his family and children board evacuation trains to flee to safer neighbouring countries.
It's a heart-breaking sacrifice to make being separated from his kids and family. Children are also left fearful and distressed about when they will see their fathers again.
“Naturally, we are afraid,” Olexander says. “I think there are no people who are not afraid, nevertheless, we have to act in this way. We are getting prepared to defend ourselves, join the military operation because we have no one to look after [our children] – we think it will be safer for them without us, abroad.”
In other parts of Ukraine, Oleksandr, managed to escape intense shelling with his two sons Elvin and Leonard. Despite being on the move, Oleksandr says the challenge is now making sure he can still create a comfortable and happy childhood for his family. He makes time to sit with his children, playing music to distract them from the horrors of war.
"My advice to all Ukrainian parents during these hard times is not to leave children alone with their thoughts and emotions, nor to let children spend long periods on tablets and smartphones. The children need your attention and care,” he says.
UNICEF continues to work with local partners to provide vital assistance to parents and thousands of children including psychological support and social services to help them get back on their feet.
In Eastern Uganda, father Iddi’s main priority is also making sure he is providing a safe environment for his 15-year-old daughter Jane so she can feel safe again. She was sexually violated during a lockdown as she made her way home one day and conceived as a result.
Iddi enjoys spending time together while they harvest coffee from his home plantation. To ensure she still gets an education Iddi has encouraged her to return to her studies and protects her from condemnation from community outsiders.
Donors have supported fathers and daughters like Iddi and Jane through the Go Back to School campaign that provides support and financial assistance for students to return to school. Programmes have also been run to provide psychosocial support to victims.
Jane is now back in education and heads the school's Girls Education Club under the Trailblazers Mentorship Foundation.
In Bangladesh, 26-year-old father, Hussein Muhammad Aslam is the primary caregiver of his daughter Anika. He enjoys doing his daughter's hair and spends a large amount of time educating and taking care of her. But it means he’s had to sacrifice his career and the embroidery business that he runs in his community. Fortunately for Hussein, Anika has started to attend a UNICEF-backed early childhood development centre, which allows him to put more time into his business.
Since opening, Hussein credits a part of his family’s success to the centre and is glad he can be a father who can balance work and spend quality time with his daughter.
“Before, fathers would work very hard to provide but weren’t as present or available to their children. My family is lucky, and we can be an example of how you can manage this.”
For new father, Somsak Hameyai in Chiang Mai, Thailand financial stress has been causing him lots of worries. As the only provider for his family, he can’t afford to leave work or take paternity leave to spend precious and crucial time with his new son. "I'm the only person in the family who works. I'm worried I might not be able to give my baby and wife all that they want. I get 15 days of paternity leave, but I may not take all the leave because it affects my overtime payment. My hope for him is to grow up and be healthy. I'll be supportive of everything he'll do.”
Evidence suggests that when fathers bond with their babies from the beginning of life, they are more likely to play a more active role in their child’s development. That’s why UNICEF urges governments to implement family-friendly policies – including paid paternity leave to help provide parents with the time, resources, and information they need to care for their children.
For, Isruel Joshua providing for his children has become harder every year because of erratic changes to his environment like pro-longed drought seasons and little rainfall.
He lives in Vanuatu with his three children where there is a severe food shortage because of crops failing from dry conditions. Acid rain caused by active volcanos spewing ash into the atmosphere also impacts food sources and vegetation on their land.
Isruel does his best to supplement his family's food supply with fish from the coast.
Donors continue to make a positive impact on families across Vanuatu by increasing emergency supplies that help mitigate child malnutrition. Because of donor support UNICEF also has an extensive water, hygiene and sanitisation (WASH) programme across the Pacific including Vanuatu. It not only provides clean water but installs pumps, tanks, and desalination units—which is lifesaving in the face of frequent droughts and acid rain.
Help celebrate fathers around the world:
Let’s face it, it can be tough being a father. That’s why celebrating them is an important reminder that being a parent is the most important job in the world. It’s incredible to see the places we’ve met extraordinary dads and the environments they’ve endured to keep their kids safe, healthy and in education. Donor support has been critical in all their stories and has enabled the development of sustainable services that break down financial, cultural, health and climate barriers that dads often face when raising children. Most importantly, donor support has meant fathers can be present with their families and spend quality time with their kids to give them the best start in life.
You can be a part of their story and celebrate fathers around the world by donating here.