04/05/2012 02:22 pm ET Updated Jun 05, 2012

A Call To Protect All Children

Whatever the merits of the controversy over the "Kony 2012" video, it has performed a valuable function in calling attention to the plight of children who are being robbed of their innocence, their childhood -- and often their lives -- in armies, militias and criminal bands around the world.

These children must be released, rehabilitated and returned to their families and communities. UNICEF and our partners are working to do so.

But let's not forget all the other children so in need of various forms of protection -- whose futures can still be rescued. The child sold into the sex trade far from her home community or forced to work in sweat shops. One of every six children aged five to 14 in the developing world has no choice but to engage in some form of labor, losing a fair chance at the education that can secure a better future.

The child separated from his or her family by conflict or natural disaster, scared and perhaps permanently scarred by the experience. Of the nearly 9,000 children registered as separated from their parents during the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, only 2,800 have been reunified with their families.

The child who has never received a simple birth certificate -- a loss of legal identity that can produce barriers to health care, to education and to inheritance.

The child who is bullied or denied access to a schoolroom because of her or his ethnicity, caste or because he or she is living with a disability.

The child in a refugee camp with poor lighting at night, crowded conditions and sporadic law enforcement -- vulnerable to every kind of predator.

All of these children are in need of rescue -- all are children whose potential contributions to their society are being lost. All are a challenge to our consciences and to our capacity to do what we all instinctively want to do when we see a child in danger -- to save that child.

And thousands of international organizations are working to do so. But as in so many challenges, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

So UNICEF urges you to support the public and private international efforts to save the hundreds of millions of children at risk around the world. Children whose rights, bodies and minds are being so abused.

But also: We urge you to advocate for the domestic legislation to provide the social services and the international legal conventions that can help every government and nation pass that most basic test of a civilized society -- how they protect and nurture their children.