Fighting to bounce back

How World Food Programme (WFP) assistance is helping a mother in northeast Nigeria create a future for her children

Four years ago, Bintu Daudah’s husband was brutally shot by a non-state armed group while she and the children were lying on the floor in their room. A few days later the group also abducted her 12-year-old daughter. Despite being displaced and depending on food assistance, Bintu is determined to recover her lost ground.

Like many internally displaced women, Bintu Daudah would like to break her dependence on assistance and start a business of her own. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

BORNO, NIGERIA — It’s a sunny afternoon in June in the Bakasi camp in Maidiguri, the place over 35,000 people displaced from across Borno state in northeast Nigeria now call home.

Bintu Daudah is happy as she prepares to feed her seven-month-old baby, Fatimah, with special nutritious foods that she just received from WFP. Displaced from Gwoza, a village only 50 kilometres south of the camp, she now lives in a makeshift house with her new husband, seven children and her sister. Thanks to WFP, the one thing Bintu Daudah does not have to worry about is how to feed her children.

Bintu and her sister, Aminat Umar, who lives nearby with her husband and three children, try to support each other every day. Photos: WFP/Rein Skullerud

“I have lost my husband — I cannot lose my children to poverty or hunger, too.”

The Government of Nigeria provides general food supplies to thousands of people in Bakasi camp. WFP complements government efforts by delivering nutrition assistance to prevent malnutrition. This includes specialized nutritious foods — Super Cereal Plus for children aged six months to two years, and Super Cereal for pregnant or breastfeeding women — to provide essential energy, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals for a healthy and active start to life. “The super cereal is a great magic for my baby,” says Bintu.

“I have experienced great misery. I have lost my husband — I cannot lose my children to poverty or hunger, too,” she adds.

Like most displaced Nigerians, Bintu is not happy to depend on food assistance. Many of them used to be farmers, but it is often too dangerous to leave the camps to grow crops. Whenever possible, WFP is initiating livelihood projects to help people become self-reliant.

“I have a small poultry farm which I started from the money I raised from sewing clothes and embroidering native caps,” explains Bintu. She saves every penny she makes to pay for her children’s school fees.

Raising poultry is allowing Bintu to send her children to school outside the camp. Given the chance, she is ready to return to the fields to produce food for her family and hopefully make a little money, too. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

“I am sending my older children to a boarding school outside the camp to give them a future. Support from WFP and the Government of Nigeria gave me a breather and the energy to do this,” she says.

Working hard to provide for their families is helping people deal with the stress and trauma nine years of conflict have forced them to go through.

Reliving the day when she had to leave her home is still hard for Bintu.

“One day four years ago, at about 3 pm, a non-state armed group attacked our village. I was sewing some clothes for a customer and my children were in the room. Suddenly, I heard gunshots. I scampered into the room and lied down with my children on the floor. The shooting continued for 24 hours non-stop. They went from house to house. My husband was lying on the bed in fear. They came in. They shot him, and he died in front of the children and me in a pool of his own blood,” she says.

“We spent two months in Chad with other women. We were all hungry.”

After the attack, Bintu decided to flee with her children. The armed group had looted their food stock and they were not prepared for the journey that would take them over mountains and through the bush to find safety. For two whole days, they had no food or water — in a part of the world where the temperature rarely is below 40 degrees.

Seeing Fatimah healthy is the one true joy in life for Bintu Daudah. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

As she was fleeing with her four daughters and three sons, food and water were only one of Bintu’s concerns. Despite all her efforts to protect her, her oldest daughter, Balkisu, who was 12, was abducted by the fighters.

“We were held hostage, then taken through the bush to Chad. We spent two months in Chad with other women. We were all hungry,” Bintu remembers. When they finally were able to return to Nigeria, her greatest sorrow was that Balkisu was not with them.

“My children are healthier, happier now; and I can send my daughters to school.”

Despite the ordeal, once safe in Bakasi, Bintu remarried. They have one daughter, and together, they take care of Bintu’s children. Every day, Bintu walks to the reception centre at a nearby military barracks, hoping to find Balkisu, who will now be 16. “Any time soldiers bring new arrivals I go there to check if my daughter is among those rescued from the fighters. I miss her so much,” she says.

Bintu and Aminat are always discussing how to make a better life for themselves and their children even if they are not able to return home. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

“The Nigerian Government and WFP have been good to me. My children are healthier, happier now; and I can send my daughters to school,” reflects Bintu. “Mungode.” [thank you in Hausa language]

In Bakasi camp, WFP is providing preventative nutrition assistance in partnership with International Medical Corps (IMC). Aimed at preventing malnutrition in Nigerian children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, and in pregnant and breastfeeding women, this intervention is possible only thanks to donors like the British Department for International Development (DfID), the European Commission and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Additional reporting: Inger Marie Vennize

Learn more about WFP’s work in Nigeria


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