Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, has launched a UNICEF campaign to protect the world’s most vulnerable children from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. For this effort, Thunberg has partnered with a Danish NGO called Human Act, which aims to eliminate extreme poverty around the world. On Earth Day, April 22, Human Act awarded Thunberg a $100,000 prize for her work mobilizing millions of people around the world to fight climate change. Thunberg is donating that money to the UNICEF campaign, and Human Act is contributing an additional $100,000. Others can donate at this link.
Proceeds from the campaign will go directly towards UNICEF’s emergency COVID-19 programs, which provide soap, masks, gloves, hygiene kits, protective equipment, life-saving information and other support to healthcare systems. An April 15 UN report concluded that the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic will disproportionately impact children in the poorest countries and in the poorest neighborhoods.
Like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisis… It will affect all children, now and in the long-term, but vulnerable groups will be impacted the most.Greta Thunberg
In a matter of just 18 months, Thunberg skyrocketed from obscurity to global prominence. In August of 2018, she began protesting by herself outside of the Swedish parliament, demanding that her government cut fossil fuel emissions. Her efforts initially garnered only modest media attention, but quickly snowballed to incorporate likeminded young people all over the world. The movement culminated on September 20, 2019, when Thunberg led the largest climate demonstration in the history of the world. 4 million people across 161 nations took to the streets to demand action from their political leaders. The following day, she gave an impassioned speech to the United Nations General Assembly. She chastised the roomful of dignitaries, famously stating, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Thunberg’s worldwide impact cannot be overstated. The diminutive but effective straight-talker has met with and been hailed by many of the world’s most significant public figures, including Pope Francis, President Barack Obama, U2 frontman Bono, and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. She has persuaded political leaders at all levels to make public commitments to environmental issues. Thunberg has made notable television appearances on Ellen and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and recently announced a partnership with the BBC to produce a documentary series about her life and activism. At the same time, major political figures including US President Trump and Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro have publicly derided her.
Time magazine recognized Thunberg as the 2019 Person Of The Year. She was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in both 2019 and 2020.