Pirates Of The Caribbean star Orlando Bloom has travelled to Niger to meet children affected by Boko Haram’s violence.
The 40-year-old actor is a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador and visited Diffa in the south-east of the country with the humanitarian organisation to talk to families displaced by the crisis.
Boko Haram’s violent attacks have hit the Lake Chad Basin area hard, with hundreds of thousands of children forced from their homes, out of education and at risk of malnutrition.
Orlando said: “As a father, it is hard for me to imagine how many of these children are caught up in this conflict. During my trip I have heard dreadful stories about children fleeing on foot, leaving everything behind, including the safety of their homes and classrooms.”
Areas of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon have been affected by the militant group which has displaced 2.3 million people, making this one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa.
The Diffa region hosts over 240,000 displaced people and refugees, including 160,000 children.
Father-of-one Orlando met one of camp Garin Wazam’s residents, 14-year-old Amada Goni, who has been living there with his family after seeing many of his friends join Boko Haram – some voluntarily, others not.
He talked about the terrible nightmares he has had since his village was attacked eight months ago and the Unicef-supported psychosocial support unit he goes to for help every day.
Amada said: “When I go there to play, I feel good, I feel relieved, I feel much better. It helps with the nightmares.”
Orlando said: “It is extremely hard to comprehend this situation when you are not there. I saw the depth of the pain and suffering these kids are going through. This is not something any child should experience.
“However, it was amazing to witness the smile on Amada’s face as he played basketball with his friends. This is the result of Unicef’s work.”
He also met Eta, 13, who fled with her family from Boko Haram after the group burned down their house and who now attends a Unicef temporary school in Bosso on the border with Nigeria.
Orlando said: “This visit has been extremely moving. Every single child I met is affected by this conflict and in desperate need of basic services such as clean water, psychological care and education to help them recover from the atrocities they have suffered and witnessed. They deserve a childhood.”
Unicef’s regional director for West and Central Africa Marie-Pierre Poirier said: “So many children in Niger and across the Lake Chad region have been uprooted by this crisis. They have suffered unimaginable violence and abuse, they have lost their families, their homes and missed out on years of education.
“What these children need most is an end to the violence, and until that is possible, we must do all we can to support them in rebuilding their lives.”
Unicef has increased its assistance to families in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger with access to safe water, education, counselling, vaccines and treatment for malnutrition, but a funding shortage and difficult access due to insecurity have hindered its efforts.