Covid-19 reminds us of hardship caused by Boko Hram – IDPs women

Boko Haram terrorists have for over 10 years launched a devastating insurgency campaign against the Nigerian State, even though the coronavirus pandemic has tended to shutout the cries of the people affected by the insurgency, the sufferings experienced by women have persisted. ENE OSANG writes.

ISWAP

The disruptive terror organisation and its splinter group, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) have not only halted development and destroyed the socio-economic lives of most people; it has also led to wanton deaths and loss of properties, rendering million others missing or homeless.

Those who survived from the carnage, millions of whom are living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps across the country, sometimes in squalid conditions shared their experiences amidst Covid-19.

A survey conducted by the United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) indicated that each year, about 262,000 babies die at birth in Nigeria, amounting to the world’s second-highest national total, with also high rate of under-5 child mortality. These indicators are more severe in Northern Nigeria states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where Boko Haram insurgency has disrupted a lot of developmental activities that includes but not limited to education and health of most victims.

At the peak of the insurgency, some of the victims fled from the crisis prone areas to other states in a bid to escape the deaths and destruction as well as search for a refugee as well as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and host communities dotted across the country.

Waru

Waru is one of such host communities located in Apo, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) surrounded by shops of traders as well as artisans dealing in motor parts, painting, panel beating and all other activities typical of a mechanic village in Nigeria.

Approaching the community, the IDPs mostly women had gathered in a church as they had been notified prior to the visit. Sitting together but in clusters as they chat away laughing, at first glance one can never tell the ordeals they had endured in life.

The victims complained mostly of financial difficulties, poor conditions of living, lack of education, and difficulty in accessing basic health care. And with the pandemic life is so unimaginably difficult such that some wished they had remained in familiar grounds.

Most of the women in this group had either had still births, lost a child at infant or child being killed in the course of the insurgency with some having difficulty conceiving and during pregnancy due to one form of health challenge or the other.

Mrs. Danjuma

Ms. Mercy Danjuma, one of the victims who is nursing twins (a boy and girl), narrated how she fled Gwoza in Borno state to Adamawa to stay with her sister. According to her, it was a long and stressful journey as she was pregnant at the time.

Now in Waru, Abuja, she continues to lament the hardship which she said has tripled due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that there are no more menial jobs to do to keep life going as most of their employers are scared of letting them into their homes since the outbreak.

“I was five months pregnant when we ran from our home to hide in the mountains, we stay there for some days, with the help of some women who were disturbed about my health as we have been in hiding without food and I was becoming so weak, I was able to join a family relocating to Adamawa to go stay with my sister,” she said.

Danjuma narrated how she had left Adamawa to Abuja when she was stronger in order to join her husband who had earlier escaped to Abuja and engaged in farming which, she noted, was lucrative enough to take care of their basic needs as he could not rent lands that will produce meaningful harvest.

“At a year and six months my first child died. One day she became seriously ill we could not take her to the hospital immediately, eventually when we did we were unable to get the complete drugs prescribed, she died two days after my new-born was barely three months I was very sad considering how we have suffered.”

She said her second child did not have such issues, but her twins are not as healthy as she insisted this reporter feel their body temperature which indicated that she was feverish.

 “When my baby was due she was delivered looking so white and not like a normal child, the doctors prescribed some medication for us and after some days we were discharged. Five months later I discovered I was pregnant; the health of my baby had not improved but rather persisted.

“At a year and six months my first child died. One day she became seriously ill we could not take her to the hospital immediately, eventually when we did we were unable to get the complete drugs prescribed, she died two days after my new-born was barely three months I was very sad considering how we have suffered.”

She continued: “It was from Adamawa that we came down to Abuja because life was difficult there. I came here and got mental jobs and farm jobs to do too, but the village head made us pay much when we decided to cultivate our own farm so I concentrated more on doing menial chores at people houses, but with this coronavirus I am jobless and my kids are hungry.

“The continuous spread of the coronavirus is not helping issues as we have to now make do with prescription and  drugs from drugs store and chemist which most times do not solve the problem and we end up spending more from our already lean resources.”

Mrs. Elisha

For Ms. Helen Elisha, she had first fled her village into the refuge mountain, while running she fell, even though she was pregnant she remained on the ground to avoid being hit by stray bullet. Later when all had gone back to normal she went back to school as she was then a student at the college of Education, but on the day of resumption, Boko Haram struck again. This time she was rescued by some soldiers as she was seen running with box on her head and protruding pregnancy.

“I left Gwoza then to come and stay with my husband here in Waru as he was already living here even before the insurgency. One day at eight months of my pregnancy I started spotting blood, on my way to the hospital I passed out. When I regained consciousness I was told that I had still birth, my baby had died.

“Though I cannot tell what happened, I was not sick throughout the whole time, but I still lost my baby since then I have not been pregnant again.”

She disclosed that though sometimes she feels bad about her situation but not as depressing as the way her neighbours treat her for not having another child.

“The thing that pains me especially is not even the children that I lost or even my condition, but the way people around refer to me as someone who is useless.

“Due to the shutdown of movements to curb the spread of Covid-19, you will begin to hear things like Boko Haram you are here again. I am lonely and need company that’s why I look for neighbour to talk with but they always call me Boko Haram go to your house.

“We have fled from Boko Haram in Borno and here we are being addressed as the Boko Haram ourselves in this pandemic that on its own has brought hardship reminding us constantly of what we have been through, it is very painful.”

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