13 February 2017

Nigeria: Heroes Sparkle Amid Gloom in Nigeria's Refugee Camps

Photo: Premium Times
IDPs in Nigeria.

Maiduguri — From the greatest of adversities in the crisis sparked by the Islamic militant Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria have emerged heroic acts of selflessness.

Among the millions displaced by the insurgency are qualified professionals who are volunteering their time and expertise to cushion fellow refugees distressed by the impact of conflict.

From a teacher who escaped abduction and is now ensuring children receive basic education, to a doctor who lost his surgery at the height of the fighting and is now helping end an outbreak of myriad of diseases at the camps housing internally-displaced persons, both experts doing so for free, the humanity has been amazing.

Dr Luka Saidu is displaced from Borno State, the area hardest hit by the terrorists.

He takes no payment for the basic health services he offers.

Saidu dispenses medicines donated by non-governmental organizations to combat malaria, typhoid and worms.

He said his work was inspired by the biblical Prophet Zechariah.

"It is not by your power or might, it is by my spirit," he quoted the prophet.

Another example of courage in the face of persecution is Ibrahim Dauda, who was leading prayers in his church when Boko Haram attacked, spraying the congregation with bullets as they scrambled for safety.

Later, he was kidnapped but escaped after falling out of a car, wrestling a terrorist, and running for two kilometers to safety.

Dauda, a teacher, is standing up to Boko Haram, which means, "Western Education is Forbidden."

Using tree cover as their classrooms, he and four others hold school for the children in a local camp to give them a future.

Education is one of the issues the camp Chairman, who preferred to be called Mr Adawara, cited as being a key challenge.

Another is the lack of medicine.

The professionals said although the future was uncertain, locals were working to build peace that will give their children hope, despite not being able to go home, food shortages, despite living conditions.

"We don't talk of our wealth, we talk of our faith," said Saidu.

The United States-based 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, global organisation working to protect and restore religious freedom around the world, lauded the bravery and selflessness by some displaced professionals counteracting the pain and suffering experienced by fellow victims of the Boko Haram crisis.

Nathan Wineinger, Director of Public Policy, and Executive Vice President, Elijah Brown, traveled to Nigeria late last year at the invitation of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

"The part of the trip that impacted me the most was not our meetings. Rather, it was meeting the people who have been displaced and are living in temporary camps, seeing and hearing first-hand their suffering, and most importantly, their hope," said Wineinger.

According to the Assessment Capacities Project, the Boko Haram insurgency and military counterinsurgency have resulted in a severe crisis in Nigeria's northeast where more than 20 000 people have been killed and 4 000 women and girls abducted since the conflict began eight years ago.

Some 1,6 million people remain internally displaced in the crisis that has spread to neighbouring countries.

The number of people with protection needs has grown from 2,6 million in 2015 to 6,7 million in 2017.

In the current year, it is feared as many as 80 000 children will die of starvation, in what the United Nations has called the "biggest crisis facing any of us, anywhere."

However, the terror has failed to break the spirit of the Nigerian people, the country's representative in the United Nations said.

"While the insurgency has tested Nigeria's will, it has failed to break the resilience of the Nigerian people," said Anthony Bosah, the envoy.

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