Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 June 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 JUNE 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Surviving and escaping More than one million Nigerians have been forced to flee their homes since the rise of the hard-line fighters FRAGKISKA MEGALOUDI Yola, Nigeria. Seven-year-old Rada plays barefoot in front of an old house on the outskirts of Yola, a town in north-eastern Nigeria's Adamawa state. She wears a shiny yellow scarf and smiles shyly at strangers. Nearby sits Rada's mother, Samira, who looks exhausted. She breastfeeds her baby, who is feverish and weak. Malaria, pneumonia and measles are common in this four-room house that hosts 57 people, including 30 children. All escaped from Boko Haram after their hometown of Michika was captured by the armed group seven months ago. Samira's husband was killed outside the family's home, but the 36-yearold mother managed to strap her infant to her back and hide in the bush with her other four children. "For three weeks we survived on wild fruits, and our children were getting sick," said Samira, who declined to give her last name for her safety. "At nights we would run into the villages to fetch water from the wells, but sometimes we could hear gunshots. Then we knew they [Boko Haram] were there and they would kill us." Since 2009, when Boko Haram launched military operations to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state in the country's northeast, at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted, more than a million people have been forced to flee their homes, and some 5.6 million are in need of humanitarian aid. Through a campaign of terror with almost daily killings, bombings, looting, burning, and abductions, Boko Haram has triggered a humanitarian crisis in north-eastern Nigeria. While Borno and Yobe states remain the worst affected, Boko Haram has also launched attacks in other parts of Nigeria, as well as in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon. Fadi Zacharia used to run a stall selling fruit in Michika, which provided enough income for her and her seven children to survive. Now she lives in the same overcrowded house as Samira, depending on food aid to survive. "They [Boko Haram] came around at nine in the morning, and forced all men to come out of the houses and shot them in the head," Fadi recalled. "There was fire everywhere. I saw my neighbour burnt alive with her baby on her back. I ran with my children into the bush. Here I am safe, but there is no life for us and we don't know how long we will stay." Those living in the house pay about $30 a month in rent, which is often paid with help from their relatives. Because they are not living in a governmentrun camp, they are not eligible for aid from the Nigerian government. The displaced people here receive food aid from Adamawa Peace Initiative, an NGO, as well as from various Muslim and Christian organisations, but this assistance is not regular. Since the escalation of the Boko Haram conflict in 2012, more than 200,000 people have sought refuge in Adamawa state, with Survivors tell horror stories of Boko Haram capture and life with the fighters. the vast majority of the displaced families living in clusters of small houses sharing common space, or in abandoned buildings with little or no access to humanitarian aid. The Nigerian government has opened camps for internally displaced people that provide food assistance to those living there. But many people avoid them because movement outside the camps is often restricted, and some fear for the safety of women and girls there. As a result, families often look for shelter in host communities, where they are left to fend for themselves. An estimated 90 per cent of Nigeria's displaced live within communities, while only 10 per cent live in camps. Almost 1,500 people live in the Giroi I camp, which is run by the Nigerian government. Pikolo, the camp leader, who is himself a displaced person, said many do not want to live here because of cramped conditions. A single tent often houses 20 people, and the entire camp has just six toilets. "The biggest problem is the lack of toilets and health," said Pikolo, who declined to give his last name. "Three months ago we had a measles outbreak that killed at least four children. The medications in the camp are not enough to cover the needs of the people." Although government agencies such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) are present, few international agencies and non-governmental organisations provide assistance in north-eastern Nigeria. "Only a handful of humanitarian partners currently have a permanent presence in the insurgency-affected states in northeastern Nigeria, and access remains a significant challenge that hampers effective delivery of humanitarian assistance," said Kasper Engborg, head of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nigeria. He added the overall humanitarian response has been limited, slow, fragmented in its delivery, inadequately coordinated and not transparent. Although humanitarian efforts are currently being scaled up, and the UN's OCHA is increasing its field presence, funding remains problematic. Most of these women walked all night to reach St Theresa to receive aid. A woman sits in front of a tent provided by the IRC in Girei I government IDP camp in Yola.
30 May 2015
13 June 2015