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Standing on the shoulders of family and WFP support

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Zara Bitrus lives in Minawao Refugee Camp, Cameroon. © WFP/Glory Ndaka

WFP food assistance strengthens family bonds for Nigerian refugees with disabilities

Zara Bitrus has been disabled for most of her life, but the past five years have posed another challenge: living in a refugee camp.

Zara remembers vividly how helpful her family was the day they fled their home in Kauri, Borno State, Nigeria, where the effects of conflict threatened their survival. She was only 15 then, so her father carried her on his back for many hours until they found transport to Cameroon. “In everything, my family kept me safe. I don’t know where I would be without them,” she says. At 22, she would like to be more supportive to her family.

To achieve this, she recently joined a programme in the camp that provides young women with sewing machines and trains them on creating an income. Through these means, she hopes to bring in additional money in the near future.

The Minawao camp in Cameroon’s Far North region is one of the largest shelters for refugees in the country, with more than 68,000 Nigerians living there. For over 1,000 people with disabilities living in the camp, barriers include reaching distribution points.

Every month, WFP provides food rations to everyone in the camp. In 2020, World Food Programme (WFP) assistance across Cameroon reached more than 115,000 people with disabilities. Where these people are unable to conveniently reach food distribution sites, WFP and refugee camp staff can arrange for their rations to be delivered in the comfort of their homes.

WFP’s Disability Inclusion Road Map aims to further improve how it serves people living with disabilities, via its programming across more than 80 countries. This includes creating an inclusive, accessible environment where people are fully involved in decision-making.

Mustapha Habib, a father of four who is also disabled, is determined to secure work and provide for his family. “People see me and wonder, what can he even do without healthy legs?” Habib says. “I believe that paid work is one of the surest ways to guarantee the sustenance of my family.”

As a graduate, he hopes to gain a teaching role with the community school in the refugee camp next academic year, as “teaching is the only thing I know how to do,” he says.

Mustapha also stands as a camp representative of what he considers his extended family – other persons with disabilities.

He believes it is his responsibility to be the voice of these people, who have felt disproportionately the effects of war.

‘’I am honoured to represent people like me," says Mustapha. "I try to make sure that our worries and difficulties are heard whenever there is a decision or situation that excludes people with disabilities in the camp.’’

WFP food assistance to Nigerian refugees in Cameroon’s the Far North is possible thanks to support from donors including: Canada, China, Germany, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FDCO), Korea International Cooperation Agency and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).