© UNICEF/2016/Tremeau

Walk in the shoes of children fleeing Boko Haram

Follow the perilous journey of refugee children in Africa’s Lake Chad Region through their own words.

Chased from their homes, risking it all, these girls and boys had to cross forests, deserts and swamps with or without shoes. 

They escaped from communities across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon but these children all have one thing in common: they broke free from Boko Haram’s violence.
“We are nomads. We were not in the camp when it was attacked by Boko Haram. I was out riding a camel with my father and saw people running away. He told me to start screaming if I saw any danger."

"The first night I slept on a tree. I was too scared.” - Tahar, an 8 year-old refugee returning home to Chad from Niger.
“The gunshots woke me up," says 7 year-old Fatime, who came home to Chad after seeking refuge in Niger.

"18 people got killed and everybody was terrified. I could not walk as fast as my brothers. After some days, I was too tired and hungry to walk, especially with these slippers.”

12 year-old Ahmat returned back home to Chad from Niger.

“I didn’t have time to take my shoes. I had to walk all the way barefoot on the hot sand. After three days walking, we arrived in a village and sold what we had left in exchange of some cooked rice.”

“They were all dressed in black and wore turbans. They destroyed everything. We ran. My feet were badly injured from walking in the bush barefoot with all those thorns. I had to go to the clinic so they could pull them out with pliers,” says Khadija, 15, a Nigerian refugee in Chad.
Hanatu is a 14 year-old Nigerian refugee in Chad.

“We could only see their eyes. They started killing people, 10 or 12 men, I can’t remember. We managed to hide around a swamp. The following day, a boat passed by, we jumped in and left. I lost my slippers on the way.” 
“There are many islands and swamps in the Lake and the boat was often getting stuck. I don’t know how many times we had to step out and push the boat back in the water. We were all barefoot, I was afraid of snakes,” says Sule, a 14 year-old Nigerian refugee in Chad.
“My family had a good life in Malam Fatori," says Fatime, a 10 year-old who has come home to Chad after fleeing to safety in Niger. "Walking for so long and leaving all you have behind is painful. It is not okay for children or for adults to live like this. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
“It was a hard journey, hot during the day and cold during the night. I broke my slippers on the way. Until today, I could not get new ones,” says 9 year-old Brahim. He fled violence in Chad for Niger and has now returned home.
“All the way here, I had to carry my little brother on my back because he could not walk as he had a foot infection. When we arrived in Chad, my mom sold some of her belongings to buy us new shoes,” says Kaltouma, an 11 year-old Nigerian refugee in Chad.
“These slippers hurt me all the time, they’re too thin. I’d love to have real lady’s shoes,” says Sarah, a 15 year-old Nigerian refugee in Chad.

Help children where they need you most

These are not fictional stories. A major humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin, where the spiral of violence has left 1.4 million children trapped behind conflict lines. Through conflict, disaster and poverty, UNICEF is there for children when they need us. But our teams urgently need your support to:


  • Deliver lifesaving health and nutrition supplies
  • Keep children safe and learning in temporary classrooms
  • Help victims of violence reconnect with their families and recover with psychosocial support
  • Tackle child marriage, trafficking and exploitation.
You can help continue this vital work, wherever children in the world need us most. By signing up with a monthly gift, you'll join our Global Parents in making a powerful commitment: that wherever a child is born and whatever comes their way, we'll give them a life, a chance, a choice.