Nigeria: Rebuilding lives

By Charles Kwuelum

Displaced from her home by Boko Haram attacks at Madagali, Nigeria and the Nigerian military’s response, Christy and her family fled to the area of Girei in Adamawa State. As the family of seven tried to escape the violence, Christy was abducted and forced into marriage with a Boko Haram member. She was lucky to escape in 2015. While sharing the story with a care giver and faced with trauma and almost in tears, she said, “I was 24 in 2014 when it happened, but thank God that I am able to partake in an opportunity for a renewed and reinvigorated life.”

The fighting with Boko Haram is now in its ninth year and has disrupted livelihoods and increased food insecurity. About 1.7 million people have been displaced, and 7.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The increase in the needs of internally displaced people, along with the shortfall in funding and difficulty in accessing many areas of the northeast part of the country, has led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation. Women and children are most affected.

One of the increased needs of people displaced from their homes, especially widows and orphaned girls who head families and fend for them, is to rebuild their lives and recover livelihoods. Empowering them through financial support and job training programs helps break cycles of dependence that often make them and their children susceptible to Boko Haram recruitment.

In the Girei area for example, Mennonite Central Committee supports Women and Youth Empowerment for Advancement and Health Initiative (WYEAHI) to respond to the needs of Christian and Muslim widows and female orphans who head families. They were displaced from their homes by the activities of Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.


A group of women in the WYEAHI program sit together

Christian and Muslim women receive seeds as part of an WYEAHI program in the Gerei area. MCC photo/William Gochin.


WYEAHI provides them with equipment like sewing machines, job training, access to microfinance, as well as training in peacebuilding and trauma. Through such support from MCC, they become peacemakers. As the number of widows and female-headed households increases, the need for broader support from the international community does as well.

However, in this year’s budget request, President Trump proposes zeroing out the Complex Crises Fund, among other critical programs. The fund enables intervention and prevention of conflict escalation in affected communities, including implementation of peacebuilding and psychosocial trauma initiatives like the work of WYEAHI. The Complex Crises Fund’s current budget is just $30 million, a tiny fraction of the federal budget.

In order to assist more women and female heads of households to become self-reliant, we must ask Congress to support robust funding for programs like the Complex Crises Fund.


Read more by Charles Kwuelum here.