SEATTLE — Halima Aden, a Somali-American activist and supermodel who is also known for being the first woman to compete in a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, was recently announced as the newest UNICEF Ambassador. For Aden, working with UNICEF is a very personal reflection of her life and background. When war broke out in Somalia in 1992, her family’s home was set on fire, which forced them to flee to Kenya. Aden was born in a refugee camp in Kakuma, and lived there until her family resettled in the United States. She has since visited the camp with UNICEF and UNHCR as part of a cooperation between them and modeling agency Endeavor.
Halima Aden’s Role as UNICEF Ambassador an Example of the Organization’s Successes
Since Aden was announced as a UNICEF Ambassador, she has worked to emphasize the goals of the organization and the needs of the 30 million children worldwide who have been displaced by conflict. Though it may be hard for some to understand just how difficult the situations of these children are, it is easy to be confident in the decision of making Aden the next UNICEF Ambassador because she is among the survivors of these refugee camps.
“To know Halima Aden is to know a fiercely passionate, intelligent and motivated young woman who pours her heart and soul into everything she does,” Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of UNICEF USA. told Look to the Stars. Stern then went on to call her addition to the UNICEF family a “full-circle movement”, referencing Aden’s childhood.
“When I was young, UNICEF gave me an education, empowering myself, my family and our community in the process,” Aden told the magazine. Her story illustrates that not only is UNICEF working hard to help in these camps, but that its efforts are making a difference. Without UNICEF, Aden may never have been able to establish the life she wanted to live or had the opportunity to help others achieve the same dreams.
Refugee Camps Still in Need of Help
As Aden told CNN, when she visited the Kakuma refugee camp she grew up in, she was flooded with happy emotions and memories of her time living there. However, she also stated that not much has changed in the 13 years since she had left, which was saddening for her to see. It is because of this that she is so inspired to be a part of bettering the living standards of the refugee camp.
Children in Kakuma and other parts of Kenya are still at risk of early death. The under-five mortality rate in Kenya is about 49 children per 1,000 live births, leading to 74,429 deaths. Disease and malnutrition are the most common causes of child mortality in Kenya.
UNICEF has innovated many different projects in Kenya in order to counteract these devastations. For instance, it is currently running a house-to-house polio vaccination campaign, helping to protect against a disease that can cause paralysis and death. This disease is especially dangerous because though it is deadly, 90 percent of the time no symptoms are present.
“Partnering with UNICEF has been a lifelong dream and is my proudest accomplishment to date,” Aden told Look to the Stars. Her passion for helping children in refugee camps is essential to bringing aid to those who need it most.
– Raven Patzke