As a mother, Audrey Hepburn cared deeply about the world’s children. But the movie star had another personal reason for choosing to work with UNICEF - the children’s organisation helped her survive malnutrition as a child.
UNICEF was created in the aftermath of World War II to help children in crisis. It was then, in the winter of 1944, when Audrey first met UNICEF. "I was in Holland during the war, during the German occupation,” she said. “The last winter was the worst of all. Food was scarce and whatever there was went to the troops.”
"I can testify what UNICEF means to children,” said the late actress, "because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II. There's a big difference between dying of starvation and malnutrition, of course, but I was very, very undernourished.”
“All the local schools were turned into relief centres. I was one of the beneficiaries with the other children. I've known about UNICEF all my life."
Committed to help children
Audrey Hepburn’s dedication to children became immediately clear in her role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. After her first trip to see UNICEF’s programs in Ethiopia, where drought and conflict had led to famine, Hepburn used her celebrity profile for good. She spent weeks talking to media outlets around the world about UNICEF’s work - giving as many as 15 interviews a day.
"I came from Ethiopia feeling exhilarated and optimistic,” said Hepburn. “I went with so many people telling me how harrowing and dreadful it would be to see the extent of the suffering, the death and the despair.”
“Certainly, I saw children in an advanced state of malnutrition, although they are not dying in masses as happened before. But I also witnessed how much is being done to help and how just a small amount of aid can assist in treating the sick, irrigating the land and planting new crops.
I came to realise that Ethiopia's problems are not insoluble if only the world will give a little more."