Orlando Bloom chats and plays table tennis with schoolchildren as he visits war-hit Ukraine as Unicef ambassador


Actor Orlando Bloom played games and spoke with children whose school had been destroyed by shellfire as he visited eastern Ukraine with Unicef.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star, who is a goodwill ambassador for the UN children's organisation, made the trip last week to the war-scarred Donetsk region of the country, which became the frontline of the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

Orlando Bloom
Orlando meets 4 year old Ksusha at a community support centre in Svyatogorsk (Unicef/Georgiev/PA)

The father-of-one, 39, visited one classroom just two miles from the war-zone which had been hit by shells while the students were at school, and spoke with children who are now receiving counselling from Unicef-supported psychologists.

He said: "I met children like 11-year-old Liana who hid in the basement of their school for almost two weeks, in freezing conditions, without lighting or heat, while shelling devastated the classrooms above.

Orlando Bloom
Orlando with Liana, the daughter of the school janitor at school #2 in Myronivskyi, who was caught in the shelling (Unicef/Georgiev/PA)

"Now, after surviving some of the most terrifying experiences life could possibly throw at them, all they want is to get back to the safety and routine of school and plan for their futures."

He continued: "Education is providing children in eastern Ukraine with the building blocks to rebuild their lives in a safe and supportive environment.

"Every child in humanitarian emergencies deserves a fair chance of a bright future."

Orlando Bloom
Orlando meets Artem, 7 at the school in eastern Ukraine (Unicef/Georgiev/PA)

Orlando, who became an ambassador in 2009, is the first high-profile celebrity to have visited the country for Unicef since the conflict.

He has backed the Education Cannot Wait fund, launching at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24, which aims to raise nearly £2.75bn to reach 13.6 million children in need of education in emergency zones within five years, before reaching 75 million children by 2030.

It comes after a new report revealed nearly a quarter of the world's school-aged children - 462 million - now live in countries affected by crisis.

Orlando Bloom
Orlando demonstrating his table tennis skills at School #13 in Slovyansk (Unicef/Georgiev/PA)

The report, by the Overseas Development Institute and commissioned by a range of partners including Unicef, found nearly one in six - 75 million - children aged 3 to 18 in crisis zones are in desperate need of educational support, while 37 million primary and lower secondary children are out of education entirely due to conflicts and natural disasters.

In eastern Ukraine alone, approximately 580,000 children are in urgent need of aid and more than 230,000 children have been forced from their homes.

Orlando Bloom
Orlando plays Lego with the younger children at School #13 in Slovyansk (Unicef/Georgiev/P)

Around one in five schools and kindergartens in the region have been damaged or destroyed and around 300,000 children are in immediate need of assistance to continue their education.

Unicef believes getting children back into education could prevent them from trafficking and recruitment into armed groups.