Actress, recording artist and designer Selena Gomez is making a heartfelt appeal to her fans to support UNICEF's efforts to save children's lives in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa.

In a short video appeal released today, the UNICEF Ambassador warns that “more than a million children could die” in the region.

Miss Gomez continues: “Crops have failed in eight drought-hit countries, leaving families with almost nothing to eat.

“Children are especially vulnerable when they don't get the nutrition that they need. UNICEF urgently needs your help to buy the food and medicine to treat the most sick and malnourished children.”

She concludes: “We can save their lives. Please help right now. I did. Will you?”

UNICEF needs £77 million to respond to the needs of more than one million children at risk of severe life-threatening malnutrition, but has received less than half that amount to date.

On April 3, UNICEF offices around the world launched a mass social media campaign, #SahelNOW, to help raise funds for this crisis. Miss Gomez used her Twitter account, which has more than 11 million followers, to promote the campaign.

“Let’s make #SahelNOW a trending topic,” she tweeted.  Of the dozens of celebrities and thousands of UNICEF supporters worldwide who spread messages that day, Miss Gomez drove the most conversations.

“I have very loyal and active fans. Through social media I have a platform that enables me to reach them in real time and mobilize them to take action,” Miss Gomez said.

Miss Gomez followed up her online activism with a visit to UNICEF's headquarters in New York last week, where she was briefed on UNICEF’s global emergency response operations and discussed the importance of social media in mobilising and educating young people on important issues.

Miss Gomez was appointed a UNICEF Ambassador in September 2009 and she has enthusiastically used her talents to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children. In January 2011, she performed her second annual Acoustic Charity Concert that raised US$200,000 for UNICEF programmes that provide nutrition, clean water, medicine, education, and more to children worldwide.

To watch the video appeal, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGeoANUjVQ8

For more information about UNICEF's work in the Sahel region or to make a donation, please visit www.unicef.org.uk

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For more information, please contact:

Ju-Lin Tan, UNICEF UK press office, 020 7375 6030, 07814 549 071, julint@unicef.org.uk

About UNICEF

UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk.