The personal dilemma of going home to northeast Nigeria

News and Press Release
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By: Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, Nigerian Red Cross Society

The news of increased stability returning to some communities in northeast Nigeria brings with it a ray of happiness for those who have been displaced by the violence, a craving to go back home, and a longing to re-unite with family members and friends who survived attacks, but above all, a deep seated fear of a bleak future.

Evelyn Dogara, a 23-year-old mother of two, has been bothered by a persistent fear, but also hope of re-uniting with her husband after spending months in one of the camps in Yola, Adamawa State. “I don’t know if my husband is alive or not. Because of the violence, we have been separated for ten months,” says Evelyn.

Evelyn wants to go home but, unfortunately, going back home is like moving from one internally displaced persons (IDP) camp to another. She will still not be able to fend for herself at home, having lost everything to the insurgence. “I want to go home but I don’t have transportation fare and from what we hear, there is nothing left for us; shelter, food, clothes, all were either destroyed or carted away,” she laments. Her story is the same of thousands of other women, children, youth, and even men, who have spent almost one year in camps or host communities.

However, not all IDPs want to go back home. “Going back is definitely going to be more traumatizing. Some of us here are not ready to see the damage done to our houses and our livelihoods. Remembering the massacre, living through the nightmares and fear of another attack, having nothing to fall back on create fear in our minds,” says Edris Abdullah, chairman of a community that moved from Gwoza and is currently trying to settle in Adamawa State.

He, nonetheless, believes that “some of us would like to go back if we can get assistance to rebuild our houses and livelihoods.”

Most of, if not all, the IDPs need psychosocial support almost more than basic amenities. There is no amount of material support that will assuage the pain of 26-year-old Musa Abubakar, whose 18-year-old wife was seized by the insurgents the very day they were married. Musa, who stays in a host community in Damaturu, Yobe State, cannot describe the trauma he is going through and seems to have resigned himself to fate as he keeps repeating, “I leave all to God.”

The Nigerian Red Cross Society in conjunction with the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), continues to assist the IDPs in several ways but what they need to regain and live their normal lives again is much more than what they had received or are receiving in camps. “These people will not remain IDPs forever, they need our help to go back home. We are ready to do more to help them rebuild their homes and livelihoods,” says Bello Hamman Diram, Secretary General of the Nigerian Red Cross Society.

The Secretary General then called on all Nigerians, corporate and international organizations to support Red Cross efforts to help rebuild communities destroyed by the violence.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of 2.8 million Swiss francs. It is aimed at providing livelihood support, psychosocial support, health care, household items and access to clean water to 150,000 people as they attempt to put the pieces of their lives back together. The appeal is currently 27 per cent funded.