As a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon are grappling with forced displacement, both internally and across borders. Approximately 17 million people now need humanitarian assistance and more than 2.3 million people remain displaced.
Ongoing violence against civilians continues. Boko Haram targets internally displaced people, refugee hosting areas, health facilities and schools, forcing people seeking safety to move many times.
Most of the displaced families are sheltered by communities that are among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Food insecurity and malnutrition have reached critical levels, with more than 7 million people in need of food, 515,000 of them children who suffer from acute malnutrition.
Additionally, these countries, which rely heavily on farming and are dependent on Lake Chad for their survival, are suffering from droughts and flooding that have destroyed crops and threatened millions more with hunger. Prolonged droughts have devastated natural resources, causing a shortage of water and shrinkage of farmland.
The story of Assiatou*
Assiatou was seated in her classroom, listening to her teacher, when the sound of gunshots interrupted the class. Boko Haram fighters had just entered the town of Damasak, in northeast Nigeria. It was November 2015.
“They were heavily armed. People were running everywhere, fleeing and screaming,” recalls Assiatou. “I saw them burning people alive.” Assiatou, just 13 years old, fled from her classroom and made it home where her mother had begun searching for her.
“Take off your uniform!’ my mother told me. She didn’t want me to be identified as a schoolgirl,” says Assiatou, thinking of the young female students, who were abducted by Boko Haram the previous year. That’s when Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students, making headlines and causing an international outcry.
Since then, many other schoolgirls have been kidnapped. Assiatou was one of them.
“They caught us,” say Assiatou, while looking down and scratching a wound on her shin.
* Name changed to protect identity
IOM provides assistance to the vulnerable displaced people of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, including:
IOM builds shelters and distributes emergency kits in all four countries. In Nigeria alone, four transit reception structures were built to provide temporary shelter to refugees who had returned from Cameroon.
IOM distributes kits containing mats, mosquito nets, blankets, kettles, basins, laundry detergent, bathing soap, jerry cans, and sanitary pads to displaced populations. We also provide kitchen sets that include pots, serving spoons, plates, cups, spoons, and knives. In Nigeria, IOM has reached more than 330,000 people with such kits.
In order to ensure access to clean water and sanitary facilities, IOM helps with the construction of latrines and bathing spaces. We also help with the rehabilitation of boreholes, and we provide dignity kits to women and girls.
IOM’s team provides counseling, group support, focus group discussions, and specialized mental health services. We also deploy mobile teams to carry out mental health and psychosocial support activities.