British-American actress, Sienna Miller, urges support for North East IDPs
An English-American actress and humanitarian worker, Sienna Rose Diana Miller, has drawn the attention of the Nigerian government and the international community to the deplorable living condition of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in North East Nigeria.
She made the call, yesterday, in Abuja, on her return from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where she had gone to provide care to vulnerable women and children in displaced persons camps.
Miller, an International Medical Corps (IMC) global ambassador, who was in Nigeria for the first time, said the IDPs were still exposed to starvation and lack of life’s basic necessities.
“They need food. From what I saw on ground, the first thing they need is food. They are very, very hungry. Then, things that are basic to life such as water, health care, protection of their rights, soap, and also skills, so that they can get back on their feet,” said Miller.
She decried the sharing formula for food, saying it lacked consideration for refugees with larger families. According to her, a family of three received the same portion as a family of 10, thereby making mealtimes complex and characterised by tears and struggle.
Notwithstanding their situation, Sienna described Nigerians in various camps in the region as resilient and brave people, who in spite of their plight have remained warm, hopeful and dogged.
She, therefore, pledged the support of the IMC, saying it has been at the forefront of delivering aide to violence-ravaged people across the world and would provide additional funding to support the refugees.
“Most of them have hope. They don’t want to give up hope because if they do, it means they have lost everything. I think that is what they have learnt. If they know that we are around them - that somebody is coming and offering them support, that they have not been ignored, and that they are not forgotten - they would be very encouraged. And we will endeavour to raise more funding and try to support them in anyway we can,” she said.
The 36-year-old actress said she was moved by passion to render assistance, irrespective of the potential dangers inherent in such a volatile environment.
“I didn’t mind the danger aspect. I believe this is the part of the world that we need to support. Seeing the programmes that are being run and how desperate the people are, how much in need they are, I am happy that I am making input too,” she said.
On her impression about Nigeria and its people, Sienna said: “I found out when I got to Maiduguri that it feels like life is usual. People are incredibly resilient, going about their normal duties. I didn’t feel any sense of danger.
“I was considering the fact that it is a conflict zone. But we didn’t feel any impact. The focus is really on supporting and providing care. People go to work everyday, delivering aide to people in need. If they can do that every day, why shouldn’t we?
“About 85 per cent of the workers are from Nigeria and they risk their lives potentially everyday to help people. So, if I can support in any small way, I will.”
She added: “But it is interesting knowing that the refugees are optimistic, they are resilient, they are so brave that you wouldn’t know that they have lost everything, that they were forced out of their homes, that they were trained professionals, who have nothing left.
“Yet, (they are) smiling and gracious, warm and loving. It is really inspiring to be around people who have been in the most unimaginable situations, who have absolutely nothing to provide to you, yet, they have held on to their spirit.”
The IMC works in four major sectors in Maiduguri: collaboration with other international and local NGOs and the government to eradicate polio in Nigeria; prevention and treatment of malnutrition; prevention of gender-based violence; and educating people on water sanitation and general hygiene.
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