Aug. 2, 2016 – Just back from crisis-riven northern Iraq, were he visited refugee camps for Iraqi and Syrian families and children, actor Ewan McGregor, an Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for more action to save children suffering the devastating effects of brutal conflicts and crises.

UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor walks through a section of the Debaga IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: UNICEF/Siegfried Modola
UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor walks through a section of the Debaga IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: UNICEF/Siegfried Modola

“Many of the children I’ve met in Iraq have been forced to flee their homes, risking their lives on dangerous journeys and have been exposed to unimaginable horrors,” said the UNICEF Ambassador in a press release issued today by the agency.

“The world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis and we must do more to protect the extraordinary number of children who have been torn from their homes by violent conflict,” he added.

Last week, Mr. McGregor travelled to Debaga camp in northern Iraq where he met with families that have escaped the violence currently taking place in areas surrounding Mosul in the north of the country. He also spent time with Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqi families in camps and communities around Erbil.

Due to the conflicts sweeping across Iraq and Syria, tens of thousands of children have been killed, injured, separated from their parents, forced to work, tortured and recruited into fighting.

“No child should be alone,” stressed the UNICEF Ambassador noting that children uprooted by conflict find themselves alone, without family and in grave danger.

In the press release, the agency added that the situation for children in Iraq is becoming increasingly desperate. Around 3.6 million children – one in five – are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups.

Many of the children are being ripped from their families and forced to flee on their own, often making dangerous journeys and falling into the hands of traffickers, the agency added in the release.

During his visit, Mr. McGregor witnessed how UNICEF is supporting families fleeing the Mosul area with lifesaving food and water, child protection services and healthcare. Many of the people he met had been previously trapped and had not had access to healthcare, education or basic services for over two years.

“One girl I met called Mirna told me how her family slept in a disused, half-constructed shopping mall for over a year,” recalled Mr. McGregor, praising the local community that donated food, clothes and supplies to her family and really came together to welcome displaced people.

“This act of humanity should be replicated everywhere, especially on our own doorsteps. It’s up to us to tell our friends, our neighbours and our governments that refugees are welcome,” emphasized the renowned Scottish actor who in mainstream and indie films alike, from Trainspotting and Beginners and Moulin Rouge.

Mr. McGregor’s visit comes ahead of the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, to be held on 19 September at the UN Headquarters, in New York.