UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo returned to her hometown of Benin last week to meet with children and young people affected by the violence of the Sahel crisis and climate change in the region.
The deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger, as well as rising food prices following climate shocks, affect people’s ability to access essential social services. children, refugees and displaced persons in northern Benin.
In some areas bordering the Sahelian countries, some schools are temporarily closed, malnutrition among children under 5 is increasing, while some medical centers are struggling to cope. stay active. Local social welfare agencies have reported an increase in domestic violence, gender-based violence and violence against children.
“The northern part of my country has always had a special place in my heart,” said Angélique Kidjo. “These are remote areas where commodities are scarce. Yet, I was met with such resilience, such hope and strength from the doctors, mothers, teachers and everyone else who rally around children. Here are people who are determined to do what it takes to strengthen their community and to take care of one another, with the help of UNICEF.”
During the week-long trip, Kidjo, a five-time Grammy Award winner, met with teachers, nurses, health and social workers who are on the front lines providing for children and families. children’s ability to access essential services, as well as adolescent girls. , children and young people who are advocating for change in their communities.
“What gave me strength is the engagement of the youth to tackle all the issues that are at the core of our mission as UNICEF,” said Kidjo. “I met a young girl who is only 16, so articulate, and so determined to promote social cohesion. She wants her community to live in peace and for that she gathers her peers every week to provide them with reliable information on how they can seek help, breaking taboos around issues that aren’t discussed in school or at home and empowering them to campaign against child marriage, early pregnancies, alcohol abuse and sexual harassment in and out of school. That’s the youth I want to see in every country I go to in Africa.”
Kidjo visited a nutrition center in Tanguiéta to see how health workers and mothers use local ingredients to create nutritious dishes to treat malnourished children and how UNICEF Ready-to-Use Treatment Food (RUTF) – a nutrient-rich peanut-based food. stickers – help save these kids’ lives. In Benin, 1 in 3 children under 5 years of age are chronically malnourished. UNICEF is increasing its presence in northern Benin – particularly in border areas – to meet emerging needs affecting children, including refugees.
“We are honoured that Angélique Kidjo could join us in the North to see and hear firsthand the work we are doing with the Government and other partners to safeguard children’s rights to education, health and protection, in a challenging context across the region,” said UNICEF Representative to Benin Djanabou Mahondé. “Now is the time for all of us to work much closer with communities to reinforce their resilience and, by doing so, ensure every child has continuous inclusive and safe access to affordable essential services.”
Kidjo visited schools and social promotion centers, where she met refugee children and youth from Burkina Faso, including Abass, 7, and Zawiratou, 9, whose schools were closed door due to increased violence. Thanks to the support of the local government, UNICEF and partners, the siblings were able to return to school after three years. Kidjo returns to Benin for his 20th anniversary as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. A tireless defender of children’s rights, she has traveled the world to support UNICEF programs. In 2017 she collaborated with seven of Benin’s biggest artists to produce a song calling for the eradication of child marriage and in 2020 she recorded a new version of “Pata Pata” by Miriam Makeba, called “the happiest song in the world”. world”, song’, to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention. This is his first assignment with UNICEF since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to strengthen the ability of people to fight for themselves, to be strong enough to absorb the shocks and for our institutions not to be overwhelmed and break all of the benefits and progress we reached until today,” Kidjo said.
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