Ugandan activist appealed to UNICEF ambassador and climate justice advocate

A black climate activist, who found her photo taken from a news photo of young environmental activists (all white) at a UN conference, is finally getting a serious platform for her important work.

Vanessa Nakate, the Ugandan-born climate protection fighter, has been selected by UNICEF, the United Nations’ aid and development agency for children, to travel across the continent as its newest ambassador. of good will. Other ambassadors included Serena Williams, popular actor Amitabh Bachchan and Katy Perry.

On her first trip with UNICEF, she met communities on the front lines of the climate crisis, including mothers and babies receiving life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition and families benefiting from water systems at solar energy.

In January 2020, an Associated Press photographer cropped Nakate from a photo of young climate activists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaving her friend Greta Thunberg and three other young white women in the photo .

It has sparked widespread outrage, and rightly so, but Nakate sees this very personal experience as a symbol of how the voices and experiences of black, brown, and Indigenous communities are routinely erased.

“Africa is on the frontline of the climate crisis, but it is not making the headlines of the world. Every activist who speaks out tells a story about themselves and their community, but if ignored, the world won’t know what’s really going on, what solutions are working,” Nakate said.

This year, Africa has been the scene of multiple climatic disasters. The drought in East Africa has worsened following consecutive failed rainy seasons combined with intensified conflict, related population displacements and COVID-19 related restrictions. More than 58 million people are in acute food insecure conditions, particularly in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya.

In Uganda, at least 29 people have died and thousands have been displaced in the eastern Uganda town of Mbale after heavy rains caused two rivers to burst their banks, submerging homes, shops and roads, and uprooting water pipes.

The glaciers of Mount Kenya (Kenya), Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and the Rwenzoris Mountains (Uganda) are retreating at a faster rate than the global average. Many parts of North Africa experienced extreme heat, including Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya. This was accompanied by forest fires. Sand and dust storms were a recurring problem.

Turkana, one of the hardest hit parts of northwestern Kenya by a prolonged drought that has left more than 37 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa on the brink of starvation, has had no rain for two years.

“To find out what it means in a community, to see how much people are hurting and what help they need, I’ve really been able to see how the climate crisis is affecting so many lives and destroying so many livelihoods, and that it is mainly women and children who suffer the most,” Nakate said.

According to the World Health Organization, around 7 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition in the region, which is experiencing the worst hunger crisis in more than 70 years.

“The climate science is clear,” the World Meteorological Organization said in United in Science, a new report. “We are going in the wrong direction. Without much more ambitious action, the physical and socio-economic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating.

“We hope that her appointment as a UNICEF Global Goodwill Ambassador will help ensure that the voices of children and young people are never cut off from the conversation on climate change,” said the director of the UNICEF, Catherine Russell, “and that they will always be included in decisions. that affect their lives.

Elna M. Lemons