Ahead of Earth Day Aria Mia Loberti visits with children and youth to discuss child rights and climate action in Kosovo
The two-day visit with UNICEF also included opportunities to learn from children, families and partners about supporting equitable access to education and the importance of vaccinations for children
Prishtina, 20 April 2023 – Aria Mia Loberti, actor, Fulbright recipient and UNICEF Supporter, traveled to Kosovo to learn from UNICEF experts, children, families and partners about UNICEF’s mission of relentlessly pursuing a more equitable world for every child. Loberti’s visit spanned UNICEF’s priority areas including climate action, vaccination for every child, and equitable access to education.
Children and young people face many environmental challenges in Kosovo, including air pollution which has become a major health hazard. In Kosovo UNICEF works with adolescents using youth-led methodologies to empower them to raise their voices and advocate for issues that are important to them and their communities, including climate action. Loberti met with an impassioned group of young activists and discussed the challenges they face as well as their hopes for the future.
“Nearly one billion children live in countries where their health and safety are at risk due to climate change,” said Loberti. “While in Kosovo, I was simultaneously devastated by the condition of the air quality and inspired by the youth who are using their voices to enact change. If we don’t act now, this planet will be inherited by billions of children who did not cause this damage but will be left with the responsibility to fix it. The climate crisis is often viewed in isolation from issues like access to sanitation, health care, and education, but they’re inexorably linked. UNICEF is giving young people the tools they need to advocate for a cleaner, and therefore more equitable, tomorrow. It’s time we all listen.”
Climate change and environmental hazards are not the only challenges facing children in Kosovo. Loberti joined UNICEF-supported health workers in Fushe Kosovo during a door-to-door campaign to ensure children are vaccinated against dangerous or deadly diseases among children, including measles. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic families in Kosovo were missing out on critical health services, especially those from minority communities where only 38% of children under five were fully vaccinated. Like in many places around the world, the pandemic led to a concerning drop in children accessing vaccines, with Kosovo experiencing as much as a 10% reduction in vaccination rates. UNICEF has been collaborating with health authorities and community-based organizations to bridge this gap by convincing parents and caretakers of the importance of vaccination, and to identify and vaccinate children with missing doses.
Investing in inclusive education is another way UNICEF is ensuring no child is left behind in Kosovo. In the city of Gjakova, Loberti met with children with disabilities and their families and teachers to see how UNICEF is helping facilitate equitable to access education. She visited a community-based center run by UNICEF’s partner, HANDIKOS and saw firsthand the range of integrated services being provided to children with disabilities and their families, including rehabilitation services, independent living skills, vocational training, and provision of assistive devices.
Helping young children get the right start through early learning and care is one of the most powerful tools to ensure success later in life, especially for children from marginalized communities. Loberti also visited a UNICEF-supported learning center run by Bethany Christian Services, which provides early childhood development services to ensure young children from diverse communities have equal opportunities for early learning and support.
“Regardless of who you are or where you’re from, everyone deserves an education,” said Loberti. “As someone who had to tirelessly advocate for myself and, when I was in grade school, my own educational access, I feel a personal responsibility to join UNICEF in their relentless efforts to ensure that children globally have that same basic right and have the power to have a voice in their community. The road is not an easy one, and it requires allies to join in this conversation to ensure that equitable access to safe, quality education is available and accessible for every child.”
The visit combined Loberti’s passion for climate action with her lived experience of the importance of equitable access to education for all children. Loberti is a PhD candidate in ancient rhetoric in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State University and will make her acting debut in the Netflix adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See in 2023.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.