migration

“May God meet them at the point of their need”

A young volunteer resident in Yola spoke with displaced persons granted shelter in a camp in Yola, Adamawa State. The displaced from this camp were mostly from communities on the border with Borno and Adamawa States, including Madagali, Michika and Mubi. These interviews took place in the Hausa language, and a translation of the interviews is below. 

What is your name?

Abubakar Manu.

Why are you here?

Well, we came to camp because in this camp, government is providing security for our lives, feeding us and taking care of our well being.

Another person speaks:

My name is Mallam Garba.

You came from where?

Gwoza.

Why are you here?

I am a refugee here in Yola. I am eating and drinking and wearing clothes. I am enjoying here.

What message do you have for the people that brought you here?

I am grateful to them. I am grateful to God.

Another person speaks:

What is your name?

My name is Haruna Jos from Lasa.

What brought you here?

We ran for our dear lives because of Boko Haram.

How long have you been here?

I have spent two weeks here.

Any ill-health?

Yes. I had an ill-health but I have recovered now.

Another person:

Your name?

Hamidu Ali.

From where?

From Gwoza.

What brought you here?

For refuge.

Another person:

 Your name?

Mamman.

From where?

Gwoza.

What brought you here?

Refuge.

Doing have any problem here?

No.

Do you eat well?

We eat well.

It is rumoured that school has been opened for you here. Is it true?

It is true.

Do they teach?

They teach everything, including Islamic schooling.

If you are given money to start business here would you accept?

Yes, I will accept.

If you are told to go back to Gwoza now will you?

No, I can’t go back now.

Another person:

Your name?

Cecelia Husseini.

From where?

From Gullak.

Why are you here?

We are here for refuge.

Do you get enough food here?

Yes.

Is it true that they have started teaching you?

Yes.

What class are you?

I am in JSS (Junior Secondary School) three.

What is your challenge here?

Nothing.

Another person:

What is your name?

Hannatu Marcus.

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

Which town are you from?

I am from Gaba West.

Where is your husband?

He is here. We are together.

How are you coping with five children here?

Here we are. But we have no food. That is the trouble. If it is six persons they would make it five persons. As it is now I haven’t gotten food.

Another person:

Your name?

My name is Maryama

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

From where did you come?

From Michika.

How is life in camp here?

We are grateful to the government and glory be to God. But the food should be enhanced for the children so that we can also get.

How about your husband?

He is doing fine. We are together here in the camp.

if you are given a trade so that you go back to Michika, would you go back?

I would go back.

Another person:

What is your name?

My name is Fatima Ibrahim.

From where?

From Gwoza

What brought you here?

I came here for refuge.

How is life here?

Glory be to God. We appreciate Him.

How many children do you have?

Two children.

is there any of them that ever got sick or something here?

Yes. This boy here was injected and he had problem with the leg.

 What call would you make to the government to help?

I don’t know what call to make. We appreciate God, we appreciate you, and we appreciate government for receiving us and making us feel at home. May God meet them at the point of their need.

Another voice: Bilkisu the young girl…because of the way they are handling in Adamawa, they want their children to satisfy by these community leaders who had three name-sakes… his Royal Highness the Emir’s wife, Aisha, the other one, myself here. So

Among these ones that delivered, is there any that lost her husband during the crisis?

Camp Director responds: No. What happened is that most of them that we met they tell us that their husbands are staying somewhere in Cameroun. They cannot crossover because of the insecurity situation. So talking. Some of them who are hoping to be with their husbands here, they are the ones insisting that we should select the children after… so far these are the figures I have.

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“For the 57 girls that escaped, they have all been rehabilitated and we have provided them psychological support”

This post is part of a series of interviews with subject matter experts on the northeast of Nigeria and the ongoing militant violence. TAP hopes these interviews will contribute to an issue-driven conversation on what relevant actors in the region can do to help stop the violence and improve well-being of Nigerians living in violence-prone areas.

Among the challenges in information sharing on the situation ongoing in northeast Nigeria is getting a sense of what the state government is doing to alleviate suffering of the population under its aegis, and what support is needed on the well-being of Nigerians living in the area. The Borno Commissioner of Health Min. Salma Anas-Kolo talked to TAP 10 days ago about her work in service delivery in Borno State, sharing insight into the challenges of internal displacement, the state of public health, and the ways in which state and federal governments are working together in healthcare. She talks about the overcrowding at the displacement camps and the cholera outbreak in the camps as a result. She also addresses the state’s provision of mental health services to 57 girls from Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State who managed to escape their abductors, and the challenges the state is facing in terms of human resources and support.

Can you give us some idea of what is going on and how exactly the ongoing insurgency in Borno State is affecting service delivery?

In Borno, [the health ministry] operates services at the three levels of healthcare. The basic one which is the primary healthcare. with the coming of this administration that is the one we focus on because it is the one closest to the people. We strengthened the health system in order to provide quality service to the people across the local governments and that has been effective. Twenty-two general hospitals in the twenty-two local government areas, and then three tertiary hospitals including the University Teaching Hospital established by the Federal Government. All are working effectively especially the primary health facility. But unfortunately, especially in the last two months and because of the severe insurgency attacks, a lot of population has shifted especially in the northern Borno and some parts of Southern Borno. This has also affected health workers. They have also relocated due to the insurgency while some have lost their lives. Of course this has its negative effect of the health service delivery in the state.

Does this mean that there is a lot of displacement going on?

Yes, our major challenge now is the internally displaced persons. In three local governments in southern Borno, we are experiencing internally displaced persons with 80% as children and women. This [challenge] is not only limited to Borno; Gombe State too has internally displaced persons. Within Maiduguri township itself there are a lot of internally displaced persons coming from the other local governments. We have over three thousand persons. Currently we are experiencing cholera outbreak. We were able to contain it last week but unfortunately it resurfaced again two days ago, so we are mobilizing our teams because we recorded over one thousand cases of cholera within one week.

With all of this going on, how are your linkages with NEMA? Is that going on? What kind of support are you getting from other State agencies?

We have been receiving support from the Federal Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Development Agency. So these are the two government and health agencies that have been providing support. And also some of our development partners, particularly the UN agencies. But we are still waiting for the desired support from NEMA. I am glad to mention that in Gombe state the state emergency agency has been supportive, especially with the internally displaced persons that have relocated to Gombe. But we looking forward for support from NEMA at the moment.

These IDP who are still in the northeast part of Nigeria, how safe are they?

Well, one cannot talk about safety because there are gaps in the security, but efforts are ongoing to ensure safety of the IDPs. They are located in the NYSC camp. They are provided with some level of security. Those who are in Biu that I visited recently also have some level of security. The local government provided a civilian security outfit.

Has there been in any attack of the camps?

There has not been any attack.

Any attempt of radicalization in the camp?

No, because we are really making a lot of effort, tried to resettle them. We have tried to provide enough relief materials: food, clothing and even some level of education, like for the ones in Maiduguri.

Considering the large size of Borno and the villages scattered far and wide, how do you respond to emergencies? Is there a structure in place?

What we did in Borno was to set up emergency response teams. We even set up a full department in the Ministry of health. So when there are emergencies, we send the team nearest to the area, send a lot of medicine and other materials to enable the nearest hospitals to cope, also ambulances. Within the Maiduguri township, whenever there is emergency, we have that emergency response that has been very effective. We have strengthen the general hospital in Biu and the one in Bama to be able to cope with the emergency response.

But one of the major challenges like I have said is the human resources. We do not have enough medical staff, especially medical doctors. Two years ago we had 35 but with the coming of this administration we are able to do massive recruitment for medical doctors. The same thing for the nurses. We recruited about three hundred nurses and a lot of them deployed to the rural communities. With [the abduction of the girls] in Chibok, if you would recall, we started providing rehabilitation services and we started training a lot of health workers for psychological support and counseling. We have trained almost forty health workers. Because of the insurgency a lot of them were displaced and we are now left with only four counselors. So this is the implication. We have been suffering a lot of setbacks.

I want to get a little clarification. Can you tell us where the responsibility of the state begins, where it ends and where that of the federal government begins. A lot of people do not understand this, particularly from the health angle.

From the health angle, you cannot be putting blame on one another. It is a collective responsibility. In the health sector we have been working harmoniously, jointly between the local government, the state and the federal government. So it has been a joint responsibility.

If I can give you example: despite the insecurity, we have been able to control polio transmission. This year alone we have not had a single case of polio. And that is the indication of the strength of the services, the effectiveness of collaboration between the State, the local government and the federal government. So in the health sector, we cannot say we cannot blame anyone.

Of course the federal government has a bigger role to play in terms of the leadership and also the effective coordination of whatever support is coming. If that is weak we wouldn’t be able to harness the support that is coming from the federal government and the local government. For us in the health sector I would say we do appreciate the support of the federal ministry of health, especially through the minister of health and also the support of national primary healthcare development agency.

Sexual violence has really come to the fore especially with the kidnapping of the girls, I wonder what your view is in terms of the state to deal with sexual violence both psychological and physical means.

Sexual violence has always existed in the northern part of the country, especially in Borno, and has led to the abduction of the girls. Even before the massive abduction of the girls, it has been ongoing in the population of Borno State, especially in Northern Borno. We have been making efforts and we have been mobilizing support through our partners especially UNFPA to support us. We have been implementing activities in the area of awareness creation in order to discourage sexual and gender based violence. We have a programme through the Ministry of Women of Affairs that have been implementing activities. But you know. it has to take a long time because it has to do with the attitude and then the educational level. You may recall that the illiteracy level in the north especially among women is not impressive. These are some of the contributory factors. But we are still not relenting. The state government at the moment is committed to ensure gender equality and also to promote the education of the girl child.

Are there any specific programs that you are implementing for victims of sexual violence? In Nigeria, we are not always good about mental health, and I’m sure there issues of trauma for people who have experienced violence on an almost daily basis. Who are you partnering with on this?

We are committed to ensuring that we address the issue. We set up a rehabilitation committee, and I chair that committee. It is supposed to rehabilitate and provide psychosocial support and post-traumatic treatment. So far, we have been doing that. For the 57 girls that have escaped, they have all been rehabilitated and we have provided them psychological support and trauma management. And that’s to all of them, including their parents. We have identified experts and trained people, especially health workers and other volunteers. We have also collaborated with the psychiatric hospital when there is need for further treatment. But part of the gaps that we have is the dearth of mental health services, and this is where we’re seeking support from our partners to support the state, not only at the highest level, but primary health, too. We have UNFPA to support us, too, on GBV. And we’re getting some support there. This is quite new to us as well.

Does this question of human resources apply in this case as well?

Yes, because we are training health workers and volunteers, but the major challenge like I have said earlier is that we are losing a lot of human resources because of the insurgency violence. So as we train people, a lot of them are also leaving. Our hope is to keep it going, and that we are able to retain the health workers and the skills to provide the required services.

What support to do you need? Is there any support that you need on ground that you are not currently getting, aside from the human resource issue?

Management of the IDP camps, for example. There are better ways of managing the camps. To date, we don’t have that expertise on ground, also on how to better resettle families. We don’t have to wait until the end [of the insurgency]. Of course, human resources are inadequate to cope and provide emergency response services. We have been mobilizing the International Red Cross Society to support us, but more support is needed.

You know when there is overcrowding, there is likely to be outbreak of diseases. As I said earlier we now have a cholera outbreak. We are doing our best at the state level, but we need additional support for drugs and medical supplies.

Women are the most affected. If you visit the camps, you’ll see that it’s mostly women, a few young men and mostly elderly men. So there is need for support with reproductive health kits and dignity kits for women. I saw 3 pregnant women. So there are enormous gaps.

Also as you said, there is need for more psychosocial support and counseling. And it is not a one-time event, it needs to continue. For all populations affected, we need to scale up massively to bring more to the people.

The health system needs strengthening. We are doing our best but we need to do more to strengthen all the health systems, including health system services, to be able to cope with the increasing demand.

Girls that do get pregnant, the children that they’re pregnant with, are they taken to half-way houses, their homes, what happens to them?

What happens is that we give them psychosocial support and we screen them. These screenings are across board: HIV, malaria, hepatitis, pregnancy, etc. When they are pregnant, we inform them and their parents, and we inform them enough to make their own decisions on what needs to be done. We have trained a lot of health workers on abortion care as part of comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, so based on their decisions we are able to assist them.

Can you give us a statistic on the number of girls that have been pregnant as a result of sexual violence lately? Do you have those numbers?

The only one we have recently is the one that we met and found her to be pregnant. That is the only one that I can say of the 57 that we worked with that escaped.

The IDP camps, I’m sure, need support, and people would want to know how to best support. If you live outside of the north or Abuja, who would you direct your relief materials?

Each IDP camps have a committee and chair, and they all have emergency response teams for health-related issues. In Maiduguri, they have a committee set up by the Governor and headed by the Commissioner of Women’s Affairs. So we can share with you contacts of these people when you want to provide support for the camps. The state governor also provides – and here is another area we need support – a food program. Borno State is agrarian, and with the insurgency there has been no farming activity taking place. We have also been providing relief in terms of clothing, mobilized a lot of second-handed clothes, and this is an ongoing activity also. We have done such relief drives to Biu and Maiduguri.

“I could count 3 dead bodies that I saw with my eyes”

An aerial attack on Kafa village in Yobe State killed Zara’s grandson and brother, while Aisha’s husband and 2 children are missing. Both women have been displaced from their homes and robbed of their livelihood. A volunteer for TAP Salihu spoke to the two women in Yobe State through an interpreter. Aisha and Zara speak Kanuri, but the interpreter and the interviewer spoke Hausa.

Salihu – Can you please tell us your name and your state, just the first name

Interpreter – Her name is Zara

Salihu – Zara is from which state.

Interpreter – Yobe state, close to Maiduguri.

Salihu – Let us start by asking if this insecurity, particularly this recent attack has affected you personally.

Interpreter – Yes, it has affected me directly. When the attacks started, I had just finished praying, with just a wrapper on me and no top or head scarf. I’m still like this at the moment. Hajiya Halima can attest to that. With old age and small kids, we ran to the next village for safety to spend the night, but even in that village all the women and children have ran away. We stayed in that village for the night under a tree and continued our journey in the morning. When we left our village, I could count 3 dead bodies that I saw with my eyes, when the helicopter started dropping bombs on our village, that was why we ran away.

Salihu – What is the name of your village and the name of the village you ran to?

Interpreter – The name of our village is Kafa and the next village is Bilabirin. We left all our belongings back in our village, our clothes, farm produce and everything. We didn’t leave with anything but the clothes we have on. Everything got burnt in the fire caused by the bombs.

Salihu – did any of your family member or relative lose his/her life?

Interpreter – yes! My grandson died and my younger brother.

Salihu – sometimes before an attack, there’s a warning. How do you feel when you receive this warning and was there a warning for this attack?

Interpreter – in this particular attack, we did not receive any warning. It just happened.

Salihu – was there any other attack in your village before this particular attack?

Interpreter – yes there was an attack before, the district head lost his son in that particular attack. And my daughter was also killed in that attack, along with her infant baby. That was the 1st attack on our village, Kafa.

Salihu – Now that you are in a safe area, are you feeling secured or you’re still in fear?

Interpreter – we feel very safe here and comfortable, only that we need assistance in this place. We are adding to our host’s burden of taking care of us and he too is not strong enough to cater for his family and us. He is struggling hard to take care of us, and its not easy on him. Apart from this we have no worry what so ever here.

Salihu – who are you staying with there?

Interpreter – he is my son, and is just a driver, struggling to make ends meet. As it is, we are looking for what to eat next for lunch, not to even talk of dinner or tomorrow.

Salihu – may Allah continue to protect you all

Interpreter – Amin.

Salihu – is there another person for us to interview?

Interpreter – yes, there’s another woman, her name is Aisha.

Salihu – is she also from the same village with Zara?

Interpreter – yes, she is.

Salihu – are they related?

Interpreter – Yes they are. They were all affected by this attack and she left her husband and her kids, not knowing what’s their situation at the moment.

Salihu – Is there anything else that Aisha wants to add that Zara did not say in her statements?

Interpreter – its basically the same sad story, my only problem or worry is that I don’t know the fate of my kids. Apart from this, its the same story.

Salihu – how many kids did she leave behind?

Interpreter – she left behind 2 kids, a boy and a girl. The boy is 25yrs old, and the girl is 17yrs old.

Salihu – we thank you for your time, and May Allah continue to keep you safe.

Interpreter – Amin. Thank you.

“I just hope that God would give us the strength to get our house back”

Ahmed, a young man who used to live in Maiduguri but has since left for Abuja, tells TAP how he lost two younger siblings, his family home and a cousin over the past year due to militia violence. He also talks about how communities used to harbor militants, thinking they were working for religious reasons, but how that has now appeared not to be so. He has asked that his voice be altered before posting his testimony.

There were two of my younger ones that we went home to pay for their school fees. At the end of the day, they went to register when those guys struck and killed the two of them and that’s one bitter experience. Some military men were pursuing one of the guys and was holding gun. We entered into one corner. The people of that area, they are the one who took the guy, brought one of the guys into their home and hid him, instead of releasing the guy to the military to arrest him and then maybe persecute. They said that the man is working for them. With the way things are happening in my place before, we thought these guys were out for something like maybe religion, but from what we are seeing its like it is beyond religion. We cannot know what exactly is happening in my area. Everyone is being attacked. There’s no discrimination against religion, sex, or any other thing. they just attack at random.

The second thing is that in May last year, they went and burnt our house down. So these guys burnt our house down, but we give God glory, no life was lost in my family, but the house was razed down completely. Up until now, nothing has been done about the house, and the state government… but I don’t want to speak much about that, because its like there’s a lot of politics about what is going on. I Don’t want to speak much about that. I just hope that God would give us the strength to get our house back.

The last experience the recent one, the attack of FGC (inaudible). That one is not my blood brother, my cousin lost his life among the people that were massacred.

Those are the experiences that I’ve had.

“We have been praying so the state will be normal again”

TAP spoke to Amina, a nurse and midwife who lived and worked in Maiduguri until just this year, when she fled for fear of the violence. She now lives and works in Gombe, and spoke about the state of public services and hospitals in Borno State under the insurgency.

Formerly the North was a peaceful place, but this thing has affected our community drastically, because most of our people that are in Borno State, those that are petty traders and are engaged in other businesses, most of them… some have been killed, some have relocated. And you know most of us including myself are no more in Borno, including other friends of mine, you know. All of us we are managing where we are.

We have been praying so the state will be normal again, so that by the grace of God we can go back to our houses in Maiduguri and Borno State in general. So it has really affected us, and not only our community.

Right now, this thing has affected almost everybody, everybody, every normal human being in Borno State has been affected. Mostly non-indigenes have left, even in the university, state hospital, even in the management board, most of the non-indigenes have left. And yes, it’s actually affecting services seriously. A lot of people are retiring and some that have retired have no replacement, no deployment. That affects hospitals seriously. And when the hospitals are affected, it’s the poor people that are affected. There is difficulty in employing more people; If possible they could have been employing more nurses and doctors.

Right now as we’re discussing, I’m telling you, not in Borno State alone. But in other states they are trying. I know of my colleagues that have left Borno State employment, they have picked up employment in Jigawa and they are doing fine; but here no deployment, no form of human resources. No staff to serve in the hospital; which is not fair on the side of the masses.