At 19 years old, refugee and youth activist, Muzoon Almellehan, is Unicef’s youngest Goodwill Ambassador.
She follows in the footsteps of a number of Goodwill Ambassadors since Audrey Hepburn who have themselves been supported by Unicef as children.
After fleeing conflict in Syria with her family, Muzoon lived in refugee camps for three years including 18 months in Za’atari camp in Jordan. While in Za’atari Muzoon began working with Unicef campaigning for the rights of children, particularly girls, to have an education. Muzoon accompanied Malala Yousafzai on two visits to the camp and is a No Lost Generation champion for Unicef.
I meet lots of refugees who think that it’s a bad thing, a bad name.
For me? No.
For me, a refugee name gives me strength to create a bright future from my hard situation. We are not weak people. We are strong people. We are not just refugees, we are not just children — we can make a change. I know the change is difficult, but not impossible.
Muzoon Almellehan, Unicef Goodwill Ambassador
In April Muzoon travelled to Chad with Unicef to meet refugee children forced to flee ongoing violence who are now attending Unicef-supported education projects.
Both Chad and neighbouring Nigeria have been deeply affected by Boko Haram violence, which has forced around 2.6 million people to leave their homes. About 4,400 Nigerian children have fled Boko Haram violence and are now living in camps in Chad. Around 90% of these children have never attended school.
During her six-day visit she met 12-year-old Yekoura. Yekoura was injured in a suicide attack and seven members of her family have died in Boko Haram related violence. She now lives with relatives and for the first time is able to access education in a newly built school.
Muzoon was able to see the impact of the Boko Haram violence on children’s education and made strong connections with the children she met in Chad. She delivered an emotional speech at a University in N’Djamena to 300 female University students.
Most recently Muzoon attended the G20 Summit in Hamburg to represent Unicef and call on world leaders to prioritize education for the millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters.
“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon. “For the millions of children growing up in war zones, the threats are even more daunting: Not going to school leaves children vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and recruitment by armed forces.”