In December 2016, Academy Award nominated actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Djimon Hounsou traveled to North East Nigeria where a desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is taking place as a result of the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram and the military operations to counter them.
He met with families who have been affected by the conflict and witnessed how violence and insecurity have impacted on their lives. He spent time in Farm Centre Camp, Maiduguri, home to 13,000 people who have had to flee their home, and where Oxfam is providing water through solar-powered boreholes. Some of them explained they are too scared to go back to their villages and farms where they could earn a livelihood and feed their families.
His visit was also a reminder that Boko Haram isn't the only side in this conflict. He met with Yagana, a woman whose husband was arrested by the military two years ago. She hasn't heard from him since. And now she and the children do not have enough to eat. Thousands of women have lost their husbands to Boko Haram and the military.
Born in neighboring Benin, Djimon Hounsou is a powerful voice against injustice and poverty: “I came across this amazing quote that says we should all be ashamed to die unless we’ve made a major contribution to society. I am the son of the continent and it’s my obligation to care for my own people.”
About his visit to North East Nigeria Djimon said: “I have made it my goal to bring the story of these people who are caught up in the conflict to the world and shine a light on the issues they are facing. I have listened to so many stories and I have met with people who make tremendous efforts to give support to their neighbors. It is beautiful to see how people have unconditionally opened their doors to the people who have fled their homes. It's my obligation to help make sure people who are caught up in this crisis get their basic needs fulfilled - such as water, food and sanitation.”
Lake Chad Basin: a "forgotten" crisis
The violence has spread from North East Nigeria into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon forcing 2.6 million people to flee their homes and leaving nearly 11 million people in need of emergency aid. Unable to grow or buy food, or get to humanitarian aid, millions are going hungry. Thousands of people are estimated to have died already, many of these young children. There is a strong likelihood that at least 400,000 people could currently be experiencing famine in North East Nigeria. This is Africa's fastest growing displacement crisis but it has received limited attention and response from the outside world.
Oxfam is providing life-saving support in Nigeria, Niger, and Chad to people who have fled their home and to the communities in which they are taking shelter. We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.
Photos: Photo Tom Saater/Oxfam