By Lucy Liu | December 1, 2008 | Lifestyle
LEFT: Liu lends a hand in Korhogo, Ivory Coast; RIGHT: Liu meets the locals in Korhogo.
SEEING PHOTOGRAPHS and reading articles about the desperation of children around the world is devastating, but the actual experience of meeting these kids and their families and getting to know them leaves an indelible mark on your heart.
That’s the impact my involvement with Unicef has had on me. It has transformed the way I see things.
As a Unicef ambassador, I’ve traveled to Lesotho, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Moscow, and, most recently, the Côte d’Ivoire. And what have I learned? That every day 25,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes simply because they don’t have access to clean water, immunizations, proper nutrition, or protection during emergencies.
Often the solutions to these problems cost only pennies per child. For instance, a dose of oral rehydration salts—which can literally save the life of a child who’s on the brink of death due to diarrheal dehydration from drinking contaminated water—costs just six cents! In developing countries these salts prevent more than a million children every year from dying of diarrhea, which is the second leading cause of death in children under five.
Unicef believes that the number of children dying every day from preventable causes must be brought to zero—zero children killed by malaria and measles; zero children falling prey to malnutrition; zero children dying after exposure to unsafe drinking water.
Every year, to kick off the season of giving, Unicef hangs and lights the huge shining snowflake over the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. This icon acts as a beacon of hope, peace, and compassion for vulnerable children around the world.
This holiday I invite you to truly recognize the importance of this crucial goal of zero preventable child deaths, whether you’re spreading the word about this great cause, enlisting others to go to Ibelieveinzero.org and join our efforts, or opening your wallet and making a donation.
I’ve received hundreds of letters from children who’ve sent in loose change or written that instead of requesting birthday gifts, they’ve asked that the money go to Unicef. Others have sent notes saying that although they have very little themselves, they’re enclosing a check in the hope that it can do something good for others.
When people around the world unite their consciousness to create change for children, it not only makes your heart swell with pride, it also gives you hope for the future. Since its founding in 1946, Unicef has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world, and I’m very proud to spread the message.
As its motto says, we must all do “whatever it takes to save a child’s life.”
The Unicef Snowflake Ball takes place on Wednesday, December 3, at Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 East 42nd Street. For tickets, call 212-245-6570. For more information on Unicef, visit unicefsnowflake.org.
photographs by Ky Chung/Unicef