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In 2012, they took all our young people, we were left to take care of our grandchildren. Today, our grandchildren have to take care of us”

OXFAM’s Poetry Night, Photo Exhibition Highlight Plight Of IDPs In North-East

By Zigwai Tagwai

The Lawan traditional leader is constantly receiving displaced persons in his community. He leads 24, 960people. “We have no choice but to rebuild”.

The Country Director and Lead, advocacy and policy, OXFAM in Nigeria, has highlighted the OXFAM principle, which is the need for all Nigerians to help raise the voices of the people affected by the conflict in North-East Nigeria, people who have been reduced to figures and statistics.

The director stated this during the public awareness programme organised by OXFAM in Nigeria at the British Council.

OXFAM in Nigeria focuses on Economic justice and improving livelihoods; Gender justice and female leadership, Good governance and the Niger Delta, Disaster risk reduction and responding to humanitarian crises. 

OXFAM emphasized the impact of the continuous conflict on the mental health of men, the expectation and demand of society for the male specie to not express emotional disorientation, be silent even when faced with challenges, exhume strength irrespective of the circumstance they are faced with, not to speak about being depressed or the need for help with issues like schizophrenia and involuntary abduction of men and young boys who are forced to become child soldiers.

Aisha Augie-Kuta and Fati Abubakar, two young northern female photographers, with their recent works focused on Borno state, further highlighted the issues with their educative and expository photographs which revealed the various experiences of affected individuals.

Aisha narrated how indigenes and residents are always packed and ready to move because of the uncertainty of happenings, the early curfews and deafening silence, the comforting fear that grips one at the sound of gunshots assuring the civilians of the presence of the military for their security, young suya sellers making use of shower basins as grills for livelihood and luggage carriers for easy movement when sudden attack occurs.

Some of these photographs captured the following cow dung used as fuel for cooking in a displaced person’s camp.

Aisha further emphasized the fact that “these are people who had their own normal lives, comfortable homes, can speak well but have been stripped of everything now”. “We should find a way to support each other, humanity first”.

OXFAM’s  response started in 2014 with its focus mostly in Borno State to raise awareness on the experience of the people and as of 2017, it had been able to provide education, clean water, emergency food support, ease of access to conflict affected area to half a million people.

In attendance were select Poets from the Abuja Literary society to narrate the North-East story from their own perspectives. There was Dike Chukwumerije who told of “The Girl in the blue hijab”, Samuel Yakura who spoke about “Normal People, what is human life to us?”, Musa whose poem was about “Education?” and Tom Tom who narrated the story of “Amir”.

According to the OXFAM humanitarian response fact sheet;

-8.5 Million People are in need of Humanitarian assistance in the North-East.

-5.2 Million People are in need of food assistance.

-1.7 Million are internally displaced (80 percent are in Borno state).

-206,597 Nigerian refugees are in Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

-6 million people are in need of livelihood support to rebuild their life.

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