Audrey Hepburn Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF
Audrey Hepburn devoted much of her life to UNICEF. Her war-time struggles inspired her passion for humanitarian work and, although Hepburn had contributed to the organization since the 1950s, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia in the late eighties and early nineties. Soon after becoming a UNICEF ambassador, Hepburn went on a mission to Ethiopia, where years of drought and civil strife had caused terrible famine. After visiting UNICEF emergency operations, she talked about the projects to the media in the United States, Canada and Europe over several weeks, giving as many as 15 interviews a day. It set a precedent for her commitment to the organization.
The visit of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn to Vietnam in October/November of 1990 contributed to drawing world attention to the needs of children in this aid- starved country. UNICEF cooperation in Vietnam focuses on increasing primary health care outreach including immunization, growth monitoring and maternal care; the construction of hand-pumps and latrines to extend safe water and sanitation availability; and support for daycare centers and universal primary education including the training of teachers and supplies provision. UNICEF also directs special attention to the country’s isolated minorities.
In the years that followed, Hepburn made a series of UNICEF field trips, visiting a polio vaccine project in Turkey, training programs for women in Venezuela, projects for children living and working on the street in Ecuador, projects to provide drinking water in Guatemala and Honduras and radio literacy projects in El Salvador. She saw schools in Bangladesh, projects for impoverished children in Thailand, nutrition projects in Viet Nam and camps for displaced children in Sudan.
Hepburn also worked tirelessly for UNICEF when not making field trips. She testified before the US Congress, took part in the World Summit for Children, launched UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children reports, hosted Danny Kaye International Children’s Award ceremonies, designed fundraising cards, participated in benefit concert tours and gave many speeches and interviews promoting UNICEF’s work.
Hepburn received the United States’ highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in December 1992. During that year, though ill with cancer, she had continued her work for UNICEF, traveling to Somalia, Kenya, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France and the United States.