The well of pain runs deep in many parts of Africa, and yet it is young people who offer the best chance for true conflict resolution, and lasting peace. Conflict-affected youth are often the most ambitious, the hardest workers. They want back what was taken from them: opportunity. They want an education and they want to earn a livable wage.
This time last year I travelled to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to see how Unicef, the world's leading children's organisation, is keeping Syrian children safe and warm as the temperatures plummet. Nothing could have prepared me for the heartbreaking situation I encountered; the conditions for families living in these informal camps were just horrendous. It's not somewhere that anyone should have to call a home, especially not a child. The over-crowded and unsanitary conditions need just one storm to set off a terrible chain reaction. The cold weather already makes children susceptible to respiratory infections like pneumonia.
In a country where young people make up a significant proportion of the available labour force, yet unemployment rates for 20 to 24yearolds have been estimated to be as much as five times greater than those for older adults, Building Young Futures works hard to support hard to reach people in places where there are few jobs or prospects for the bulging youth population. What's the alternative?
Surely no-one wants our most vulnerable children to suffer, even in harsh economic times. And they don't need to. Different choices are possible. We know because many other countries have done better. It is possible to reduce child poverty and deprivation even as we take steps to recover from the great recession.
AL-Hasakeh/Damascus, 23 October 2014 - While many of Syria's war-torn cities and governorates are grabbing the headlines, the humanitarian situation in the north-eastern governorate of Al-Hasakeh governorate is largely in the shadows. With a population of 1.5 million people - almost half of them children - much of the governorate has been cut off from humanitarian aid for almost two years...
New global data from Unicef shows that millions of children around the world suffer physical violence every day. Around 120million girls under the age of 20 (about one in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives; boys are also at risk, although there is no global estimate due to the lack of comparable data in most countries... I hope very much that the world leaders, starting to gather in the chambers of the UN as I write, will make a commitment over the next year to champion a target to end abuse, exploitation and violence against children.
For thousands of children in Syria, summer vacation is no longer about taking a break from their hectic school lives. On the contrary, with displacement and violence regularly interrupting normal classes, many children around the country used their summer break to visit school clubs and catch up on lost school days.
"We walked for more than 20 hours with no food or water," says Juan, an adolescent girl who arrived at Nawrouz refugee camp in north-east Syria three days ago, along with eight family members. Juan is from the Yazidi minority group, many of whom are fleeing to Syria from the mountains of Sinjar in Iraq.
Today, Usain Bolt will compete in the 100m relay for Jamaica in his first ever Commonwealth Games. As the fastest man in the world, he is one of Jamaica's most famous exports, alongside the country's glorious, sun kissed beaches that thousands travel to every year. But my trip to the small island in the Caribbean with UNICEF was to see a very different way of life.
During the course of my humanitarian work in Syria, I have listened to many children share their perspectives. The death of family members, whether siblings or a parent or other loved one is common. Being displaced from their homes, often more than once, and finding their friends and communities snatched away. Memories of repeated attacks from warring parties that flattened whole neighborhoods, fires that raged through the night stay with them.
I was part of a recent humanitarian mission that delivered emergency assistance to children and families in six hard-to-reach villages in northwestern Aleppo governorate. For some families living in this remote area near the Turkish border, it had been almost two years since they had received humanitarian supplies...
UNICEF is providing humanitarian assistance to millions of conflict-affected children and families in Syria, including through support for safe drinking water and to the on-going polio campaign. It is essential that life-saving assistance reaches all those affected by the conflict, particularly children and women, no matter where they are in the country.
With the Formula One season in full flow, you could be forgiven for thinking that my life at the moment is focused on non-stop training, qualifying and racing. It's often difficult to find time for anything else, but earlier this month I was able to visit Haiti with Unicef, the world's leading children's organisation, to make an appeal film for this year's Soccer Aid, which returns for the fifth time on Sunday 8 June.... No child, no matter where they live in the world should go hungry or lose their life because they or their family don't have enough to eat. That's why I'm asking everyone to tune in on June 8 and give what they can.
South Sudan's children are suffering - and the crisis is set to get worse - much worse - in the coming months if more action is not taken urgently. The world's newest nation is on the brink of devastation with a brutal conflict destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and a growing humanitarian emergency putting the entire future of the country and its children in jeopardy. The United Nations Secretary General has predicted that by the end of this year, an incredible half of South Sudan's 12million people will be either in flight, facing starvation, or dead. At least half of these will be children.
UNICEF works tirelessly to protect children from sexual violence in every conflict zone around the world. From working with governments to reform laws, to supporting communities to challenge beliefs on gender roles - UNICEF teams work around the clock to protect children and support those who have experienced sexual violence.
During my visit to the Unicef-supported Basic Education School for displaced grade one to four children at the Aleppo University I met a number of confident, upbeat children, not shy to ask tough questions... As a mother, I could not hold back my tears when a young girl got up and asked me: "When will this war end?"