Inspiring stories from people who did exceptional work in 2021


It is gratifying to see a malnourished child gain weight

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the exceptional people were unsurprisingly health workers who put themselves at considerable personal risk to ensure that members of their communities survived the emergency. This was particularly exacerbated in conflict zones, where health personnel continue to provide services against all odds.

In Yemen, Asia El-Sayeed Ali and his family had to flee their home in Aden and move to that of relatives. Today, El-Sayeed Ali works in a medical center supported by the World Food Program (WFP), where he cares for children, and their mothers, who suffer from malnutrition.

© WFP / Hebah Munassar

Health worker Asia El-Sayeed Ali measures the arm of a severely malnourished child.

“When a mother brings a malnourished child, I give him nutritional treatment and advise her to bring him back the following week,” says El-Sayeed Ali. “When he comes back and I see that the child has gained weight and his cheeks look healthier, I feel relieved. I love working in the clinic. It hurts my soul when I see the children cry from pain or hunger, but I am doing something positive helping mothers and putting a smile on the children’s faces. “

After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, Dr. Khali Ahmadi * told UN News in an exclusive interview from the Afghan capital Kabul that he and other health workers continued to work despite the lack of security and instability that prevailed. in the country, and asked the international community to continue supporting his country.

Ahmadi is in Kabul to provide health care to the thousands of people who came to the city fleeing the fighting. “Our working day is very long and hard,” he said. “I start around seven in the morning and sometimes I can work until midnight, which means that, as a team, we can treat up to 500 people a day.

“Sometimes the security situation forces me to stay home. If shooting or other disturbances are reported, as well as roadblocks, the team members decide that it is too dangerous to go out to work. There can be a lot of tension in the streets ”.

* Fictitious name, to protect identity.

UN Afghanistan / Ahmad Ali Fakhri

Fezeh Rezaie is one of 19 deminers who made Bamyan the first mine-free province in Afghanistan.

All were killed by a mine explosion. I thought of my own children

Other UN officials worked in high-risk countries, including 26-year-old Fezeh Rezaye, a mother of two and part of a 19-woman demining team, who was awarded in April for their efforts to clear mines in the Afghan province.

“I met several people from my village who were killed or injured by the mines in Bamyan,” he said. “Our landlord lost his leg in a mine accident. But what really affected me was the death of seven children, all from the same family, from our village. They were together in the mountains when they were killed by a mine explosion. I thought. in my own children, in what could have happened to them. “

MINUSMA / Abel Kavanagh

Airman Pilot Lieutenant Luis Alfonso Amaya Medrano checks the good condition of the flight instruments.

For the soldiers who are part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali, one of the UN’s most dangerous destinations, every patrol they go out on could be their last. However, few would change their profession.

Airman Pilot Lieutenant Luis Alfonso Amaya Medrano, 29, who belongs to the El Salvador contingent deployed within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, also known as MINUSMA, would not hesitate “to serve again in another UN mission, since I know that with the little that I contributed, I am contributing to world peace “, affirms the young Salvadoran.

We always start the flight missions here in Timbuktu, we fly towards Duenza, we check that all the streets are clear, that they have not planted explosives, that there are no suspicious activities. We land in the Duenza camp, we wait for the aircraft to be refueled and, later, we do a convoy escort, protecting it from the air so that all the supplies that the camps need, especially Duenza, Timbuktu and even Mopti, are provided without any problem. “

Since being deployed to the Sudanese region of Darfur in 2019, Kenyan Military Gender Adviser Commander Steplyne Nyaboga has worked diligently to advance the rights of women and girls by organizing campaigns and workshops for staff and women. civil society activists.

In recognition of the excellence of her work, the UN awarded Nyaboga the 2020 Best Military Defender of Gender Issues Award. “Peacekeeping is a human experience,” she said. “Placing women and girls at the center of our efforts and concerns will help us better protect civilians and build a more sustainable peace.”

Commander Nyaboga was responsible for gender education for other military peacekeepers during her deployment. It came to train almost 95% of the UNAMID military contingent until December last year. He also advised to better identify the needs of vulnerable men, women, boys and girls, and optimize the way peacekeepers protect them.

UN News / Grece Kaneiya

Nzambi Matee is a materials engineer and director of Gjenge Makers, which produces low-cost, sustainable building materials made from recycled plastic waste and sand.

Defend the earth

Following the initial postponement of the UN climate conference due to the spread of COVID-19, the long-awaited Glasgow COP26 was finally held in 2021. The work of climate activists became more relevant.

From August to the end of October, the UN presented the work of ten young activists, engineers and entrepreneurs, showing how we can all do something, in the successful series of podcasts in English No denying it (Do not deny it), UN News.

Drivers of change include Nzambi Matee, a Kenyan businesswoman who makes low-cost, sustainable building materials from recycled plastic waste and sand. His company, Gjenge Makers, has economically trained more than 112 people, from the supply chain to the production process.

Greek activist Lefteris Arapakis, meanwhile, founded his country’s first fishing school, and convinced fishermen to remove plastics from the ocean. Arapakis explains that he founded the school after hearing his father, a fisherman, say that despite the economic crisis in Greece, there was a lack of manpower for fishing boats.

Thanks to the initiatives of his school, fish populations and the ecosystem in his area are recovering, plastic waste has returned to the circular economy and the sailors in his community have an added source of income.

Many of the activists featured in Do not deny it They have been identified as Young Champions of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which announced its latest winners in December.

This year’s cohort of women includes Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who was honored as a powerful voice from the global South, advocating for a sustainable world and unrelenting in her efforts to highlight the vulnerability of small island developing states in the face of climate change.

The fight for human rights

Charles Shines

Joenia Wapichana, an indigenous activist from Brazil, wins the United Nations Human Rights Award.

Human rights of all kinds continued to come under attack in 2021, but many courageous people persisted in their fight to protect them.

UN News interviewed Joenia Wapichana, an indigenous leader in Brazil, who has been defending the indigenous communities that live in the Amazon of the South American country for more than 30 years. The fight for education, the fight against racism and the demarcation of indigenous lands have been his priorities.

In 2018, after a long campaign, Wapichana was the first indigenous woman elected as a member of the Brazilian Federal Parliament. His campaign was financed with a popular donation. That same year, won the UN Human Rights Prize.

During the interview, Wapichana asked for more resources to fight institutionalized discrimination. “Society has to understand that discrimination against indigenous people has always existed in Brazil. That discrimination exists and is not recognized”, He assured.

“When a person has suffered racial discrimination, or is suffering from racism, it is necessary to protect it with the full weight of the law. Report the incident, even if nothing comes of it. It is important that we record what we are going through ”.

Eddie Ndopu, an award-winning South African disability activist, lives with spinal muscular atrophy and faces many daily challenges himself. He says that when he was born, his parents were told that he would not live beyond the age of five.

Ndopu recounted how he overcame barriers to travel the world by advocating for other disabled people. “Poverty is both the cause and the consequence of disability, and the vast majority of people with disabilities live in poverty, he said in an interview for the English podcast. Awake at night from the ONU.

“I think we don’t talk about disability because we insist on perfection. And I think disability reminds people that imperfection is actually more intrinsic to all of us than perfection.”

You can read more stories about how you are in the UN News section In first person.

You can also listen to the UN climate action podcast, in English, Do not deny it, with the stories of these young agents of change.  

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