People who have fled violence in northeastern Nigeria are desperate for food in a camp for displaced people.
Amid millions of people displaced by violence and thousands of children’s lives threatened by malnutrition in Nigeria, an indigenous ministry plans to introduce a means for Nigerians to regain their livelihood and dignity.
The United Nations announced on Friday (July 1) that tens of thousands of children in northeast Nigeria, where Islamic extremist group Boko Haram waged a seven-year battle to impose sharia law on all Nigerians, will die of malnutrition this year without increased aid. Government forces with help from regional militaries have retaken most of the territory Boko Haram had seized, but aid organizations have found the violence wrecked agricultural output and drove up food prices, leaving more than 500,000 people in urgent need of food.
In Borno state alone, nearly 250,000 children under the age of 5 will suffer from malnutrition this year, and one in five of them will die without more aid, according to the United Nations.
The leader of an indigenous ministry in Nigeria said Boko Haram burnings and bombings destroyed houses, offices, church buildings, schools and other facilities.
“These have rendered so many people homeless and jobless, especially farmers in the north,” he said. “These people are confronted with the challenge of how to survive, especially those that are not in the Internally Displaced People’s camps. Some have relocated to neighboring communities to settle in a strange land or with family friends and acquaintances.”
Terrorist attacks that killed 20,000 people have left more than 2 million people displaced within Nigeria’s borders, and the ministry director said 1.3 million of those are children. The government acknowledges that food insecurity and malnutrition are at emergency levels in northeast Nigeria. In spite of the military gains, some areas of Borno state remain inaccessible, as scattered Boko Haram militants haunt some highways, and suicide bombings continue, mainly in markets or places of worship.
Power shortages and hikes in oil prices have hammered small businesses with a one-two punch of shut-downs and exorbitant fuel prices that have toppled many of them, the ministry director said.
“Recently poverty is biting hard so much in the country,” he said. “This is evident in low income or no income at all. Some state workers have not been paid salaries for months.”
Children are arranged in lines for orderly distribution of food in a camp for displaced persons in Nigeria.
Seeing how economic devastation has shut down transportation businesses in northeastern areas such as Adamawa state, where people routinely wait on roadsides for hours for the means to reach their destinations, the ministry plans to begin a taxi service. It would make motorized, three-wheeler taxis available to impoverished people so that they can generate income for their families.
“We shall also use this opportunity to reach out to them with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the hope to the hopeless,” he said. “He is the only one that is able to soothe their pain and give them a better future, because He is the help of the helpless.”
Of the more than 2 million displaced people in Nigeria, the destruction of crops, looting of livestock and violence by Boko Haram left 250,000 of them in other parts of the northeast, according to the United Nations. The indigenous ministry has been bringing relief supplies and the gospel to displaced people in camps and the cities to which they’ve taken refuge.
The government is looking to both Christian and Muslim groups to come to help resettle displaced families.
“The families are to be resettled and in different places of their choice,” the director said. “Islamic and Christian groups including our ministry were invited by the government of Adamawa and Borno states to think of the number of people they could help to resettle in the northeast without government intervention. It was obvious that Muslims have money and are trying to woo Christian refugees and Islamize them through providing homes to them.”
In five camps for internally displaced persons thus far, the ministry has registered more than 300 people asking for resettlement help rather than Muslim assistance, he said.
“We will help them build their huts and roofs, and then use this opportunity to provide the gospel among them,” he said. “Many Muslims who are disenchanted with Islam are asking to go with these people for resettlement.”
The ministry seeks funds to help resettle the displaced persons, which it has sought from churches and individuals.
“We must go ahead and help them and use their bases to reach out to their Muslim neighbors in the coming years,” he said. “It is important to keep praying that Islam does not get these people. The Islamic Development Bank has released millions to the northern government, and they are going to use that to make sure no one benefits in that except them. Let us try our best to help so we are not Islamized because of want.”
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