Audrey Hepburn: A Tribute to her Humanitarian Work
      Home      Contact      Links      Site Info      Guestbook
      Her Work





      Spirit of Audrey

      AH Children's Fund

    home >interviews >discusses work with unicef


Audrey Hepburn Discusses Current Work with UNICEF
CBS This Morning, June 3, 1991

HARRY SMITH, co-host: She has played fair ladies from princesses to Robin Hood's Maid Marian, but it's Audrey Hepburn's role as UNICEF's goodwill ambassador that is now her most rewarding. Since being appointed two years ago, Hepburn has literally been all over the world--in war-torn Central America, helping the children who live in the crushing poverty of Bangladesh and in the Sudan where UNICEF helps save millions from starvation. But the work is far from over, especially in the Horn of Africa. And Audrey Hepburn joins us this morning. Good morning. Good to see you again.

AUDREY HEPBURN (UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador): Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: This has been such an incredible year with the cyclone in Bangladesh, with the Kurdish refugees stacked up on the borders there and now the prospect of incredible famine in--in Ethiopia. Is there a point at which our well of compassion might run dry do you think?

HEPBURN: Never. I--I don't think that's--it's not in human nature. Giving--giving is like living. I mean if you stop wanting to give, I think you--there's nothing more to live for.

SMITH: How--how is it for you, then--though, who is responsible for bringing so many of these things to the attention of the world and to have to come back again and again and again and say, Please pay attention to this.'

HEPBURN: Again, it's--it's part of life. Because in a smaller way it happens in our own existence. There's always somebody ill or a neighbor or child or a member in the family. You don't just stop with one person. All through your life you deal with pain and sorrow and--and-and need and help. And it's just that thanks to the media now we know a great deal more about what's going on on the other side of the world. And--but I want--what I do want to say is this--that this is in the Horn of Africa and not just Ethiopia. This is not just another emergency. It--it's the greatest human catastrophe in--in living memory.

SMITH: So often, you know, the news focuses on the short term. That we see pictures that are terrible and horrify us and we react. I think what might be important for people to realize is that UNICEF not only deals with the short term but also the long term. Explain how that works.

HEPBURN: Exactly. Well, that I would like to explain as briefly as I can. But in the case of the Horn of Africa where we have--not just we--but many, many agencies that are in the field, where we have been able to--to help with development and--and nourish children and bring education and so forth, is that now the great problem is that--is their wars. So first of all those must come to an end. Because--for instance, in Ethiopia when I was there last it was because of a great drought. Droughts need not cause famine to this degree because water can be contained and so many wells have been dug and reservoirs built and dams and so forth, which now have been destroyed by war. Now, fortunately Angola, Ethiopia--God willing--there's a cease-fire. Liberia is still fighting, Mozambique and it is just horrifying what this has done to whole populations. As you've just said, some 20 million people are facing starvation, but not just because of lack of rains but because of shear destruction. So the first thing we have to do is bring pressure on--on governments to--to help end this strife.

SMITH: You're going to Washington to...

HEPBURN: Yes. Tomorrow. I've been invited to--to testify. I was invited by a Senator Kassebaum to testify at a hearing on Africa.

SMITH: What might the reaction be from some Americans who suggest we have one in five children in America living in poverty. We have worse news just over this past weekend about the state of children in America and even compared to the rest of the world that maybe we need to take care of our own before we start caring about everyone else.

HEPBURN: Not before. But I think we can do both. And we have a government, we have the money, and most of all we now have the convention in the rights of the child and we had a World Summit for Children. And the point of that was to commit governments to give children their priority. So now--I mean, UNICEF's mandate is for the developing world, but UNICEF was extremely instrumental, both for the convention and certainly for the World Summit for Children, because the needs are great in all countries and they must be taken care of. But just as in our own homes--sure we take care of our own children first, that is our duty. And--and charity begins at home, as they say. But there's no reason why we don't have love or time or money or food for children in Africa.

SMITH: Uh-hmm. You have lived two lives it seems to me. The kind of glamorous--almost a land of make-believe type life of Hollywood. And then one more recent life that seems so grounded and rooted in in fact the terrible reality of lives of people who suffer so much. Do you ever have any difficulty reconciling both or...

HEPBURN: No, Harry, because it really is all one life. And I never led what people think is this glamorous life. I have always been me. I've always been aware of what goes on in the world. And I certainly grew up in a war-ravaged country and I've always known, you know, that I was privileged and many were not. I've always seen suffering. Known about it and that hasn't changed. I'm still the same old--old, girl.

SMITH: Tell us a little bit about pictures we're looking at right now.

HEPBURN: That's the Sudan. As you know, two years ago we successfully negotiated Operation Lifeline Sudan to be able to ferry food to southern Sudan that was totally cut off. The civil war is still going on between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Off and on that Lifeline operation has been cut off. It's open again and planes are flying in and roads are open, but under the greatest of difficulties. We have lost convoys. And it's--it's a very, very difficult job to do it. But that--that doesn't faze us, you know. UNICEF has been and stayed in some130 countries in the world and they will, you know, through thick and thin.

SMITH: With your help. Thank you very much.

HEPBURN: With your help, Harry. Thank you.

SMITH: We'll give that telephone number right now. If you'd like to help UNICEF, here's a toll-free number you can call, 1 (800) FOR-KIDS. That is 1 (800) FOR-KIDS. Audrey Hepburn, good to see you again. Thanks for joining us this morning.