A sign in the NYC subway. Making vaccines free, easy to access, and providing incentives really helps entice some to get vaccinated, but most of the hesitant need to have their fears addressed first.

A few days ago, I had coffee with an old family friend. Before long, we got talking about the vaccine. She hasn’t had it and said she is scared to get it. I knew I had to try to persuade her to get protected, so I gave it everything I have. This is what happened.

I started by listening closely. I wanted to understand why she was hesitating. I was astonished to hear that she was frightened she would die from the vaccine. …


A Syrian refugee boy I met in a refugee camp in Southern Turkey in 2015.

The number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution hit a record 82.4 million in 2020. That figure has doubled within a decade, with 1% of humanity now forcibly displaced, according to figures released on Friday by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

These are the statistics of global suffering. Behind the numbers are millions of men, women, and children, forced at gunpoint to abandon everything they own. These are people who live for years in limbo, often in danger and grappling with personal loss and trauma. They deserve urgent solutions.

As UN High Commissioner for…


I’ll say this for the conspiracists, they are nothing if not creative. The lies they spread to undermine vaccine confidence are getting weirder by the day. Now, in the latest cruel twist of the infodemic, they’ve pivoted to targeting the vaccinated and their loved ones.

All kinds of wild conspiracies have been circulating since the early days of the pandemic, but recently they have hit new heights of absurdity. I admit my jaw dropped at reports of people who had previously refused to wear masks putting them on to protect themselves from the vaccinated.

Let’s be clear, it is medically…


My job at the United Nations is to inform the public about the state of our world. That involves stories of ever-growing numbers of people suffering, wars erupting, a deadly virus spreading, economies collapsing and the planet taking revenge for being repeatedly abused.

This information matters. It is about the consensus of the science of climate change or guidance on protection from COVID-19. It represents the surging data of need — numbers of war refugees, girls forced to marry, fathers and mothers losing their incomes, families starving, children out of school, people trafficked, and workers exploited.

These are the statistics…


Displaced boy I met in Kabul. UNHCR was providing him and his family with assistance to survive.

Afghans have suffered too much already. And yet it is hard to overstate the scale of the looming catastrophe they face. Basic services are collapsing, food and vital aid is fast running out. The United Nations is committed to doing all we can, but we need the world to help us save lives.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly. …


Of all the moving images of the Afghan airlift, one stood out. Dressed in yellow, a little girl skips high into the air as she and her family make their way across the runway shortly after arriving in Belgium. It’s an image full of relief, joy, and gratitude.

The girl and her family are among the lucky ones given the chance to start a new life in safety. Leaving their homes in haste, they arrived with very little, making convoluted journeys to countries they’ve never seen before, their hearts filled with fear for those they had to leave behind.

With…


UNHCR-supported school in Afghanistan provides education lifeline for displaced pupils

For many of us at the UN, these past weeks have been a blur, with our thoughts and work almost exclusively with the Afghan people. Between the many crisis meetings, calls, and latest harrowing bulletins, I’m haunted by a memory from one of my visits to the country.

Several years ago, in a school outside Kabul, I met a group of teenage girls. Internally displaced, they had lost their homes to violence. They had very little, but the excited smiles in that classroom told a different story. The girls were learning, so they had hope. …


Living in denial? We are almost all guilty of it these days. I’m not talking about full-on climate change deniers, or those that simply don’t care. I’m talking about those of us who understand what the planet is facing but are paralyzed by the enormity of it.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by a problem this big. Every day, the news headlines tell of fresh tragedies, of fires, floods and droughts, or the recent shocking IPCC report talking of irreversible damage to the planet’s ecosystem. For many of us, it can feel like too much to bear.

We end up…


Catastrophic climate change is no longer a distant threat to our future. It is already here. And as the world simultaneously battles ruinous floods, droughts, wildfires and heat waves, the realization is dawning that nowhere will be safe. This message isn’t new. It is just growing too loud to ignore.

Daily reports of freak weather events on nearly every continent show us what, deep down, we already know. The world is on fire or under water, from Canada to Siberia, from Madagascar to DRC, from Germany to China, our climate is in crisis.


Writing morning pages from our vacation spot in Stoupa, Greece

Every morning I observe a small but life-changing ceremony. First, I grind coffee beans and slowly pour hot water over the grounds to make a flavorful brew. Depending on the season, I then sit by the early light from the window or out on my balcony. I take a deep breath, reach for my fountain pen, open my notebook, and begin to write.

What comes out is a stream of consciousness. I write anything, everything that comes into my head. I record all my thoughts, however fleeting or seemingly insignificant. Most liberating, however, is the knowledge that the words are…

Melissa Fleming

Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store