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Vanessa Nakate named UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

25-year-old climate activist Vanessa Nakate was recently appointed as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador. This recognition comes after a 3-year climate change campaign that saw her address world leaders both at COP25 and COP26 summits.

Vanessa is a well-known East African climate activist from Kampala, Uganda.

She was inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s school strikes that gained momentum globally and began her own climate campaign, protesting for months at the Ugandan parliament gate back in 2019.

Since then, she has founded Rise Up Climate Movement, an amplifying voice for African activists on the global stage.

During her acceptance speech in New York, she said, ‘as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, it will be my first responsibility to bring the voices of children and marginalised people into conversations where they were previously excluded.’

‘This role with UNICEF will provide me with more opportunities to meet children and young people in the places most affected by climate change and an expanded platform to advocate on their behalf.’

According to UNICEF, Horn of Africa countries (Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia) are facing one of the worst climate-related droughts affecting over 20 million people.

Approximately 3.7 million people have been internally displaced in Somalia, alongside 4.2 million people in Ethiopia and 800,000 refugees.

Drought in these countries has affected more than 10 million children, many of whom face violence when looking for water far from adults.

A lack of clean water has increasingly put them at risk of dangerous diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea – which are fatal to children under the age of five. Reduced intake of nutritious food and clean water has also led to an increase in malnutrition.

Access to quality education remains a challenge in most areas. Approximately 15 million children are out of school and a further 3.3 million risk dropping out due to drought. Many schools remain closed as more families move to aid camps and some children are forced to fetch water for animals and family use.

Nakate has witnessed climate change effects recently in her country of Uganda and neighbouring Kenya.

In Uganda, 29 people died last month due to heavy rainfall after two rivers burst their banks in the city of Mbale, leaving thousands displaced. In the north-eastern region, more than 400,000 people are currently facing hunger due to drought.

Nakate’s recent tour with UNICEF to the north-western Kenya Turkana region led her to meet children suffering from severe malnutrition due to climate change related catastrophes. The current drought situation at the Horn of Africa is the longest in 40 years.

We hope Nakate uses her new role for global social change towards environment conservation and protection.