Little Mix star and The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) supporter, Jade Thirlwall, has been sharing stories about her Yemeni heritage and learning more about the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

Through an inspiring socially distanced conversation with 17-year-old Somaya from Sana’a, Jade and Somaya covered a range of topics including the impact of the country’s conflict on Somaya and her family, life for young women and girls living in Yemen and the vital work UNICEF is doing to support children and families. Jade also answered questions from Somaya about her own Yemeni heritage and family background.

Jade Thirlwall was born in South Shields, in the North East of England. Her grandfather, Mohammed, came to England from Yemen in 1943 and he told her fascinating stories about their culture, which was instrumental to helping her understand her Arab heritage.

Jade told Somaya how she fondly remembers her grandfather’s Yemeni cooking and that since he passed away, she feels she’s lost part of her heritage, which she wants to claim back. Jade explains the more she finds out about Yemen, the more she is finding a piece of herself and believes that while it’s important to celebrate her heritage, she also wants to educate herself about the ongoing conflict in and use her profile to raise awareness of UNICEF’s vital work supporting children and families.

Yemen remains the largest crisis in the world. Almost every child in Yemen – more than 12 million – needs humanitarian assistance. The spread of Covid-19 means the country is now facing a further emergency. Sanitation and clean water are in short supply. Barely half of health facilities are functioning. UNICEF urgently needs help to save children’s lives, preserve their future and help them cope with the long-term impact of the conflict.

Jade Thirlwall, UNICEF UK supporter said: "It was a pleasure to speak to Somaya and I am grateful to UNICEF UK for giving us the opportunity to have such a special conversation. It is so important to hear from the people who are impacted by the conflict in Yemen and Somaya is the perfect example of a determined, remarkable young woman doing all she can to give a voice to the children who have been impacted.

“The coronavirus pandemic has showed us that now, more than ever, we need to care for each other. Somaya’s wish for a future where every child can fulfil their dreams and potential was inspirational, and I am honoured to use my platform to amplify her story.”

Somaya, 17-years-old, from Aden, Yemen said: "I hope that the war and coronavirus will end soon so we can return to our normal lives. I hope that kids in the future will not suffer like we do, and peace will find its way back. That is my hope for Yemen.

“We sometimes lose hope, but I know things will get better and I am grateful for what I do have. I am in my last year of school and lucky to have the opportunity to get an education, while many other girls in Yemen enter early marriages or are made to stay at home.”

The coronavirus outbreak has put yet more added pressure on the already fragile healthcare system in Yemen – more than half of health facilities are not functioning – and global shortages and breaks in the supply chain could lead to further loss of household income, rising food prices and inflation.
School closures and the worsening economic situation due to Covid-19 restrictions have increased the risk of children and women facing exploitation, violence and abuse.

To find out more about UNICEF UK’s emergency appeal for children in Yemen, and to donate, please visit unicef.org.uk/yemen.

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