English actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom this week travelled to Diffa, south-east Niger, to highlight the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin where Boko Haram violence has caused huge population displacements.
Hundreds of thousands of children across the region have been forced from their homes, are out of education and at risk of malnutrition.
In areas affected by the violence in Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, 2.3 million people are now displaced, making this one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa.
The Diffa region currently hosts over 240,000 internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees – including 160,000 children.
“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,” said Bloom.
“So many children in Niger and across the Lake Chad region have been uprooted by this crisis,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “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 and its partners in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have increased the level of assistance to thousands of families in the region, with access to safe water, education, counselling and psychosocial support, as well as vaccines and treatment for malnutrition.
However, according to UNICEF, a shortage of funding and difficult access due to insecurity have hindered the delivery of humanitarian assistance to thousands of children in need.
On Friday, 24 February, a major international conference, hosted by Nigeria, Norway and Germany, will be held in Oslo aimed at increasing funding for the crisis in north-east Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad Basin.
Photo courtesy: UNICEF