Author: Administrator

USING REUSABLE PADS TO TACKLE MENSTRUAL POVERTY IN NIGERIA.

Menstrual hygiene is one very important component of the female gender and by extension the male gender. It is believed that roughly half of the female population around 26 per cent of the global population are of reproductive age. UNICEF reports that globally, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services.


With the increasing cost of living and the associated water and sanitation issues in Nigeria, it is getting more challenging for women – especially those in rural areas – to afford menstrual packs and maintain proper hygiene during their monthly (menstrual) flow.


In response to this situation in Nigeria, between July 14 to 16, the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association (NAOWA) in Abuja as part of their 3-day empowerment program trained over 100 women, mostly wives of men of the Nigeria Army to produce over 500 reusable pads. 

The second day of the event was a 4-hours practical session as participants were taught how to make reusable pads. The lead facilitator, Mrs Ifeoma Okonkwo, a trained Menstrual Hygiene educator started by enlightening participants on what reusable pads were and their importance. According to her, reusable pads are very important because they reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.

Menstrual poverty is a threat to the health of women and reusable pads are a great tool in tackling this. Mrs Okonkwo also stressed the importance of changing the pad frequently during a menstrual cycle. Emphasizing the uniqueness of the reusable pads, she explained that asides from being hygienic, reusable pads are very cost-efficient and can be easily stored for later use.


After the presentation, there was a demonstration of the processing involved in the production of the reusable pads. Thereafter, the women were grouped and following the guideline by designated volunteers, the participants produced reusable pads using flannel, cotton, cardboard and other materials. The participants expressed their joy after the session and made known their plans to teaching their colleagues through step-down training when they returned to their respective locations.

The training was sponsored by the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association, facilitated by Media For Community Change (MFCC) and held at the NAOWA Event Centre in Abuja. The pads produced will be distributed to women and young girls for use in place of rags and other unsanitary options that are resorted to during monthly periods.

At the close of the event, Mr. Jimoh Oluwatobi Segun the Executive Director of Media For Community Change (MFCC) urged the women to consider the skills as a very important one and should commit themselves to empower other women.

5 Easy Ways to Locate Communities in First-time Visit

If you work directly with communities, either as a community mobilizer, data collector, programs coordinator etc, then you should read this.

Up until now, I never had a glimpse of how challenging locating communities could be despite my numerous visits as a worker in the development space.

Usually, a member of the team would have done the background work that makes it easy to locate and arrive at the community without having to paranbulate in circles.

But for this particular visit, no previous visit had been made, we only had a contact person who was to stand at the given landmark to guide us into the community.

Vests/trousers on and boots worn, we were set to be on the field. We were able to navigate our way to one of the fore descriptions given by the contact person. Not with some super powers of course, we asked people by the roadside. 

Although we were certain to be on the right path but couldn’t locate the landmark our contact person (whom I would refer to as Mrs E) gave us.

Then, we called. She asked us to locate a burial ground. Hahaha….don’t be scared. We asked passersby and bikemen and even that was so hard due to the language barrier. We had to keep describing with gestures. I remember my team lead described this way: “person wey die, where e dey sleep” while striking his neck with a finger to give further clues😀😀😀.

We kept making calls to Mrs E for better descriptions but it wasn’t helping matters. Somehow, we went past the burial ground and found ourselves somewhere else. We called Mrs E and asked again for descriptions and of all landmarks, she asked us to locate a casket shop. Are you thinking what we were thinking? Why do the landmarks have to do with the dead? For a second, we hoped we weren’t going to a community of the dead. Lol.

Thankfully, that was much easier. Right in front of the shop, we found Mrs E and her two young boys exhausted, obviously.  Did I mention it took us over 40 minutes searching for the landmark to meet Mrs E?

This funny experience inspired this article. And I would be giving a few hints on locating communities during first visits or out reaches or projects.

1. First, ask for prominent landmarks like Churches, schools, billboards. For instance, we found a very popular church which could have been a better landmark and would have saved us the stress, time and of course, fuel. Emphasis on ask. The contact person might not mention but you should ask.

2. Next, have enough fuel. So you don’t get stranded while parabulating should incase there isn’t a filling station closeby.

Extra tip: drive in your car or get a private car. Hired/public motorists might not have the patience and might even charge exorbitantly beyond your budget.

3. If you don’t speak the major language of the community, it will be great to have someone bridge the language barrier for you.

4. Please, have enough airtime. Hahaha. You would need this to keep on with the calls. Don’t rely on getting airtime from roadside sellers as you might not get and then, don’t also rely on bank recharge as the network might not be strong enough.

5. Place minutes on distances. This one is very vital. When your contact person says, “that place is far from where I am saying”. You need to ask about the definition of what they call ‘far’. For instance, we told Mrs E we were somewhere and she said we were far from the description. We drove for barely a few minutes thinking we couldn’t have reached the place. Instincts told us to call again and voila, she said we had passed a long time.

Let us know how helpful this is for your next visit. Do let us also know of other tips that have worked for you.

CSJ trains 50 NGOs on the use of shadow reporting in tackling Gender-based issues

Center for Social Justice held a two-day workshop on 20th and 21st of August for 50 Non-Governmental Organisations from the Federal Capital Territory, Adamawa and Sokoto States on the use of shadow reporting as it relates to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) issues.

Shadow reports are used by NGOs to present alternative information submitted by state parties to human right treaties.

The workshop also touched on Follow-up on Obligations in relation to Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms on SGBV, Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), Harmful Practices (HP) and the promotion of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

It was done in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme/European Union (UNDP/EU) on the implementation of components of the Spotlight Initiative. 

Giving a welcome address, the Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere told participants that the Spotlight Initiative is focused on the eradication of Sexual and Gender-based violence and promotion of the Sexual and Reproductive Health rights of women and girls.

Eze Onyekpere giving a welcome address

“It has an overall vision of a Nigeria where all women and girls, particularly the most vulnerable, live a life free from violence and harmful practices”, he said.

Eze also noted that the programme seeks to equip women rights advocates, civil society groups and the media with greater knowledge, capacity and tools on gender responsive programming and engagement of government to eliminate the aforementioned issues.

Participants were taught on the definition, purpose, method and when to write shadow reports. Strategies to maximize benefits from shadow reporting as well as follow-up issues were equally discussed.

Reacting to the developments from the workshop, Silverleen Aroh from Save the Child Initiative Nigeria, in an interview with Media For Community Change spoke on the importance of shadow report. 

For her, it allows CSOs and NGOSs collaborate and engage  in the activities of the government.

She said: “I was able to learn the need for CSOs involvement and synergy among CSOs to be able to come up with shadow reports that will support what the government is doing and push them to do more.”

Another participant, Emmanuel Ezechukwubem from Kiek Foundation stressed the need for awareness on several existing policies and laws. 

He called on CSOs and NGOs to help with such awareness to the public particularly the rural communities. 

He said: “Coming from Anambra state, if you go there and tell a woman that they have the right to own a land, they will disagree. We should go out there and create awareness. 

“We have to go for awareness creation to the communities to make people know about these laws that is the only way to get citizens to participate. If they do not have ideas about these laws, how will you make them participate?”

Lastly, Chioma Kanu from Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre lamented that Nigeria has several unimplemented policies and laws that could promote gender related issues citing the Violence Against Persons Prohibition, Child Rights Act among others. 

She equally pointed out that traditional practices still supersede these acts.

She said: “I learnt of so many policies and laws that promote gender related issues. We have this act of never implementing the laws that we have passed and then we also have our traditional laws clashing with the national and state laws.

“In practice, it appears as if we focus more on the traditional law which to me, I feel is not helpful, for instance we have the Child Rights Act at the National level which protects Nigerian children. Some states that even bothered to pass it ‘panel beat’ it to such extent that it lacks the true essence of the principal act. There is a whole lot of watering down issues based on our tradition and religion.”

She rather advised that the federal government put up some mechanisms to override state laws and insist on national laws to protect women and children.

“We have the Gender and Equal opportunities act which the government is yet to pay so much attention to and CSOs are wearing thin on what to do. We have also the VAPP act which has been assented to and some states have domesticated but we want to see implementation of the law.

“We also want to see National Orientation Agency taking a proactive step towards creating sensitization for people to know that these laws exist and they can utilize them to protect women and girls in Nigeria”, she added. 

WASH: Nigerian Based NGO and Partners to leverage Data to address water Poverty.

In an effort to leverage technology as a tool for development, Media for Community Change, a non-governmental organization based in Abuja, Nigeria is partnering with US-based NGO, BLI Global to launch Data4WASH on Thursday, August 27, 2020. The web-based interactive online platform has been designed for open source use and is designed to highlight areas in need of water improvement facilities while showcasing areas that have achieved improved wastewater treatment practices.

The platform will aggregate verified data generated and mapped with GPS coordinates to create a WASH map used to make a case for driving investment into the design and installation of proper WASH facilities in communities experiencing water poverty across the world.

Speaking ahead of the launch, the CEO, Jimoh Oluwatobi Segun described the platform as the one that would highlight areas in need of water improvement facilities while showcasing areas that have achieved improved wastewater treatment practices.

The purpose of the platform is to identify through generated community-driven data, areas of water stress, and poor sanitation in developing countries with Nigeria as a pilot. These will be juxtaposed in an interactive map with areas in developed countries practicing proper water and sanitation to serve as best practices. Our objective is to raise investment into developing proper water and waste treatment facilities and sanitation facilities in the rural communities/cities in developing countries as submitted through verifiable data by community members.

Explaining what inspired the Data4WASH portal, Maria Auma Horne, Co-founder and CEO BLI Global said that the platform will be a great way to drive financial and technical support to communities in Nigeria and gradually other communities in developing countries that are in dire need of improved sanitation facilities and access to clean and safe drinking water. She also commended the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria for their commitment to engaging their final year students of the Department of Statistics in the data collection process. This project also offers students a continuous opportunity to practically interpret data and harness technology to improve development.

Expected at the virtual launch of the Data4WASH portal include Talia Fried, the Director, Global Policy & Government Affairs of Global Citizen who is expected to share how Global Citizen is engaging in the WASH sector; Emmanuel Iorkumbor, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of WaterAid Nigeria will share a few words during the launch to give insight into WaterAid’s work in the WASH sector and why it is vital in this trying time; Kassim Gawusu-Toure, the Executive Coordinator of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change – one of Africa’s largest youth coalition on Climate Change also applauded the innovation and pledge to support by sharing with her over 5000 members.

‘Seyifunmi Adebote,

Programs Director, Media for Community Change.

Seyifunmi Adebote, others to speak at UN’s #Youth4ClimateLive series – IG Live

Seyifunmi Adebote, a young environmental leader in Nigeria will be speaking through the UN Youth Envoy’s Instagram account as part of a panel on a special Instagram Live on Friday, August 21st between 06.00 pm-06:45 pm WAT. This is part of activities to set the stage for #Youth4ClimateLive Episode 3: Driving Youth Action.

Other youth speakers on the panel include India’s Environmentalist and Wildlife filmmaker, Malaika Vaz and Dominican Republic’s Climate and Youth Activist, Claudia Taboada. The IG Live session will be hosted by Ahmed Badr on Connect4Climate’s channel in partnership with the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth as part of the #31DaysOfYOUth campaign and the #Youth4ClimateLive Series.

As a run-up to Pre-COP26 in Milan, Italy and the COP26 which will now hold in Glasgow, the United Kingdom from Monday, 1 November 2021 to Friday, 12 November 2021, the Youth4ClimateLive Series is hosted by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, in collaboration with Connect4Climate – World Bank Group and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

Seyifunmi’s innovative approach to climate education through his widely-listened-to Climate Talk Podcast has earned him this spot on Friday’s Instagram Live. He is expected to address a global audience, discussing “What Meaningful Youth Engagement means”, and highlighting effective climate-focused initiatives and opportunities in Nigeria and internationally.

After 29 years, Abandoned Enugu community gets the first-ever borehole

By Titilope Fadare

The importation of COVID-19 reiterated the need for nations to focus and invest more in the health sector. The use of soap and clean water was introduced as part of the preventive measures to stem the spread of the virus but it obviously alienates those who still struggle to access clean water for their daily needs.

About 60 million Nigerians are unable to get clean water supply services and 150 million people do not have basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, according to WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) in a 2018 survey.

Eziama community situated in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu state is at the other end of the divide because clean water for them was a luxury before the global pandemic and it still is, making them joggle between water related diseases and the virus.

The community was brought to limelight following tweets from Daniel Ugwu, an Environment expert in February 2020 when a female colleague informed him that the residents have never had access to clean water since the existence of Enugu state in 1991.

Stupefied, Ugwu decided to embark on a journey to get firsthand information with the aim of finding either a temporal or long-lasting solution.

“It (Eziama) has existed for as long as Enugu state has been existing. I got to know about them through a colleague. She is married to a community that is close to Eziama Community. She has had some projects she did with the young people there. That was the way she was able to identify the challenges they face with respect to water. When she told me about the community, she wanted us to take up a campaign so the government’s attention can be brought to the plight of the community.

“Initially, I didn’t believe such a community actually existed. I asked her to get me some pictures. She sent it to me. I tweeted about it. Some people who I believe may be close to the government started attacking that the picture is fake and people should disregard it. I challenged them to also produce another picture to counter the narrative. So I felt I should go to the community myself and not rely on third-party information”, Ugwu told MFCC.

Idodo River serves as the only source of water for bathing, washing, cooking and drinking for Eziama, six other communities, 12 surrounding villages and cattle brought by herdsmen.  

Uwgu said: “In that river, they bathe, wash and process their fufu (a local food made from cassava). When we interviewed the traditional leader, he said even some herdsmen bring their cattle to the river. The cattle will drink and urinate there too. Some people flush their toilet and it moves to the river”.

Eziama women, children worst hit by water crisis

Culturally mandated to carry out domestic duties, women, and children are mostly affected as they walk miles to get water asides being vulnerable to diseases from dirty water.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 6,000 children die daily from water related diseases while women and girls across the world collectively spend 200 million hours everyday collecting water.

Similarly, women and children residing in Eziama Community are not exempted.

“The issues the women face is that the river serves 12 villages and some of those villages are very far from the river so these women have to travel a very long distance to access the water. That is a whole lot of difficulty.

“We also noticed that the elderly women in the community, those of them who walk that long-distance, will now have to resort to young men using bikes to fetch the water. A gallon of water- 25 liters goes between N50 to N100 depending on where they live.

“When you go to the primary healthcare center, you see the women and the children who are the most impacted by this because the women are the ones who culturally go to fetch water to carry out domestic duties”, Ugwu said.

Typhoid, Diarrhea rampant

Out of 10 health cases in the community, six to seven of them are related to typhoid. During the dry season, diarrhea is more rampant. 

These were some of the findings from Temple Oraeki,  Hope Spring Water’s Country Representative in Nigeria, when he visited the community with his team after Ugwu’s tweet.

“After we got the information, we went on a preliminary visit, my team members and I. On the first visit, I interviewed their nurse. There is only one community health centre which they just opened last year. Prior to that, they never had one. She pointed out that cases of water-related diseases are very common with the community members.

“She said out of 10 cases she gets every day, six to seven of them are typhoid cases. She also pointed out that cases of diarrhea exist within the community. She was quite specific that during December and January, that is when the children have cases of diarrhea. What I found out was that from December- January, it is usually not the rainy season. The volume of the river goes down that period. This is what I figured out.

“She said she tells them that their disease is caused by unclean water but she cannot do anything apart from telling them. Some of them that have money get ‘pure water’ (water packed in sachet) but there are not a lot in the community that is financially buoyant to get it. I knew that was not a sustainable means to get access to clean water.”

Eziama residents resort to herbal concoction and mixture to treat and manage their health issues.

10-year federal water project lying in waste

Although the community is about 40 minutes away from the city centre, it appears to have been neglected by the government. This is besides the poor road network that connects to Eziama.

A federal water project has been lying in waste since 2010 after Contractors abandoned the project due to unreleased funds.

“The King also pointed out an abandoned federal government water project in 2010 that was meant to be cited in the community. They just did about 60% of the project and it was abandoned. They said the contractors said the government was not releasing funds for the remaining aspect of the project to be complete. It was a project running into millions of naira”, Oraeki said.

In August, the community, especially women were overjoyed after the handover of their first ever water pumped borehole following an intervention by Hope Spring Water.

While it seems like respite has come for this community, a plethora of issues was raised by the interventionists.

Oraeki said: “Our major challenge executing a borehole was access to the community. The access was muddy and swampy. The location where the borehole was cited is quite strategic- at the centre of the hospital, primary and secondary school. Although that would not be enough to serve them because there are about 2500 people and that is the first-ever borehole.

“You can imagine the kind of pressure that will be on that borehole. It doesn’t solve the entire water problem.  It is still very key that more interventions are done to the community to get access to clean water. They have just one health centre and it is not enough to handle the many cases that you see. There are so many people coming in and going out.”

Urging the government to look into the abandoned federal water project, he expressed belief that it has the potential to alleviate water poverty for not only Eziama but surrounding communities.

Ugwu on his part raised a campaign for the community through the MTN Foundation to cite more boreholes.

“I led the campaign on twitter and a lot of people nominated them again. I just hope the community will be considered by MTN Foundation. The campaign is not to shame anyone but to showcase to charitable organisations who could be of help. At least let people have access to clean water for a daily decent life”, he added.

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Hamzat Lawal Listed as a Global Malala Fund Education Champion

Following his advocacy for policy and programmatic solutions in the education sector, Follow The Money Campaigner and CODE’s Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, has been listed as a Malala Fund Education Champion with 57 others from around the world to accelerate progress towards girls’ secondary education.

Hamzat Lawal was named alongside other notable Nigerian campaigners: Olabukunola Williams, Executive Director, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) and Benjamin John, Programs Manager, Restoration of Hope Initiative (ROHI).

This announcement was made by the Chief Programmes Officer at Malala Fund, Maliha Khan, on the Malala website. According to Khan, as COVID-19 threatens to force millions more girls out of school, Champion-led programmes and advocacy work is now even more important. 

Reacting to the announcement, Lawal said “it is an honour to be listed to contribute to the fight for a right to education, especially for the girl child in Africa. The increasing number of out-of-school children especially in Nigeria’s North, continues to be an issue of great concern. Statistics show that for every 100 boys of primary age out of school, 121 girls are denied the right to education, worsening gender-based discrimination and putting girls at a disadvantage. Issues of water, sanitation and hygiene, and in many cases, insecurity affecting the delivery of education in conflict affected areas, are also factors driving children – particularly girls – away from the classroom.

Lawal will use CODE’s Follow The Money model to train and launch citizen-led teams to identify barriers to girls’ education in Adamawa state, northeast Nigeria. The team will advocate for and track the State’s spending on education and encourage government officials to invest in gender-responsive school infrastructure in creating conducive learning and safe space for girls to reach their full potential in life. 

Education has remained one of Follow The Money’s focal thematic areas, through which the initiative has facilitated the provision of several school amenities and infrastructure across grassroots communities in Nigeria (through several social accountability mechanisms).

It also led civil society campaigns for the amendment of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act. Hamzat Lawal has also championed and co-organized other key campaigns for girl-child education in Northern Nigerian stressing that even during crisis, Education cannot wait for girls. 

#WaterPoverty in Lai Papa Community in Oyo state, Nigeria

Here is a story of a community in Saki East of Oyo state with no source of Clean #Water.

Lai Papa, like many other Nigerian communities, A stream is the only source of water– drinking, bathing, laundry.

Diseases emanating from using unclean water cannot be treated because they lack health care facilities hence their existence becomes threatened.

The children in this community are yoked in this dilemma without sufficient educational facility or tutor while learning under dilapidated buildings almost at the brink of collapse.

Residents of Lai Papa will appreciate efforts that will proffer sustainable solutions to several issues affecting their Community.

MFCC partners with Swedish Embassy to commemorate World Press Freedom Day

To celebrate 2020 World Press Freedom day, Media For Community Change partnered with the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria to host a webinar.

The day is marked every May 3. This year’s event was organized to celebrate principles of press freedom and discuss the situation for journalists and media workers in Nigeria, concentrating on 2020’s theme ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’.

Two highly rated guest speakers from the Nigerian media space – Mr. Dapo Olorunyonmi, CEO and Publisher of PremiumTimes Newspaper and Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, CEO and Executive Director Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism attended the event. 

They spoke on the topics: ‘Patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria and how it has enhanced or constrained values and how they interface in the process of democracy building’ and Promoting independent journalism and media online’ respectively. 

Giving his presentation, Olorunyonmi, recounted the patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria from the 19th century of Private Print Press to Government Owned Broadcast and the digital age in 1996.

Although the digital age comes with its uniqueness, it is also comes with several challenges.

He explained: “I think the challenges ahead today would be how do we deepen that context? How do we shake up the excesses and weaknesses of our media up to this point. Those weaknesses, some of them alluded to by the Ambassador which is just sometimes just blatant lack of professionalism, inability to provide fact-based and contextual reporting and all these go to harm the project of democracy making because, at the end of the day, media as media is itself an oxymoron. 

“We are reminded of the absence in our media culture and make sure we go as close as possible to building the foundation of an accountable media, ability to bring innovation into o the newsroom as things get far more difficult from a financial and ethical perspective.”

On the bright side, he noted that digital media has helped expand access to information exponentially although this is coinciding with “the worse type of ignorance and falsification.”

Alaka, on her part, highlighted the following as means to promoting media online- holding the government accountable especially in democracy, fighting for truth, walking the talk, developing the capacity of the media whether online or offline, providing legal support for reporters and collaboration across sectors and interests. 

On accountability, she said: “It is easy a lot to call Facebook and Twitter to tell them to get their acts together, but we must also be truthful to acknowledge that at the centre of propaganda before the age of digital and during and perhaps after is the government itself and it is very active in the online space as a means of spreading misinformation and disinformation and it is used as a weapon for Government. We must hold the government accountable in this space.”

While fact checking by fighting the lies, she called on journalists to also fight for the truth. 

She said: “Ethics is something that we have compromised a lot. I often say, if journalism is a product, credibility will be the unique selling point. We must do our best to spend accurate information early as much as we are debunking the lies in that space.”

Alaka equally urged media professionals to practice what they preach. 

“When we talk about gender issues, the leadership of female persons in the newsroom, for instance, the media is at stake for 35 percent affirmative action representation for politicians but a survey by Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism on the status of female persons in the newsroom shows that media management has a ratio of 10:2 in favour of men as the ratio of leadership, senior editors ratio 8:2, the board of directors of media houses ratio 7:2, so if we are asking society to give us 35 percent we should not do less. In fact, we should do 50:50 but that is not the case”, she said. 

Due to increased ‘publishers’ on the online media space, she called for training capacity for the ‘newbies’ on the ethics of journalism.

“Now that we are all publishers, those who have some form of structure around their publishing need to be trained in the ethics of journalism. WSCIJ is having a program in this regard to train people in that space because you are sharing the gains of having a voice, you need to bear the responsibility of having space with us. You have to be more proactive in that space”, she added. 

Giving the opening speech, the Ambassador of Sweden Embassy in Nigeria, Carl Charles Grän, stressed the need to safeguard the freedom of the press.

He said: “We strongly believe that the ability to separate reliable information from unreliable information is highly connected to the quality of the press. This requires both knowledge and having access to the proper fact-checking tools.

“Therefore, the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria has been using a toolkit produced by the Swedish Institute called Fake not Fact. With this toolkit we want to raise awareness and contribute with concrete fact checking tools. Earlier this year, we had exhibition in 3 different schools reaching over 100 school students. A free, independent and pluralistic media plays an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”

He appreciated the organizers, Media for Community Change saying, “the Embassy is proud to have worked with you in the past and hope to continue same.”

COVID-19: How hunger, death and threat of community infections haunt IDP camps

MFCC – “I left the camp since morning. We (children) went to pluck cashew nuts from the bush. We roast and eat it because there is no other food. I go every day”.

Those were the words of Mary Nuhu, 14, living in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Durumi, Area 1, Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This camp is located within the city centre of the nation’s capital with 2830 persons in it.

Nuhu and other residents were displaced in 2014 from Bama and Gwoza local governments in the northeastern state of Borno. They have now found solace in Abuja and gotten approval from the Nigerian government to settle in the community.

On this sunny Saturday morning, when MFCC’s reporter Titilope Fadare visited the camp, Nuhu and other children had gone to the bush.

The premises house a clinic, store and over 30 makeshift apartments positioned strategically at the corners of the camp. Some men, women, and children sat at one side in clusters having a conversation and peeling off ‘dawadawa’, an African locust fruit from the pod.

“Some of us go to the bush to get locust beans. The yellow part we eat it and sell the ‘dawadawa’ part. When our children are really hungry and have cried for a while, they settle to eat this and drink water”, the Chairman of the Camp, Ibrahim Ahmed told MFCC reporter, Titilope Fadare.

In order to feed this period, the minors are left with no option than to perform odd chores to survive the hunger fueled by the lockdown directive from the federal government to contain the spread of coronavirus.

At 1:16 pm, Mary and the other kids in their hundreds, returned to the camp, giggling and laughing.

She was able to pluck a 150 cl bottle full of cashew nuts after spending over five hours in the bush. Clutching unto the bottle as though she had just been awarded a trophy, she said she could not wait to show her family of 7, the proceeds of her fruitful venture.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the camp, who gave his name as Umar Ali, said women and children are the primary focus in the camp when members of the executive share resources from their private allowances or donations from well-meaning donors.

“Both women and children enter the bush to get cashew. If there are items in the store, the chairman will share for the children because they are the ones who suffer the most. It is not easy. This coronavirus is ‘hunger-virus’.

“Sometimes we (Excos) remove money from our pockets to buy food for the children. Now, we don’t have much money again to take care of them because of the lockdown. It is supposed to be the federal government that should take up this responsibility.” Ali said, adding: “The first project of the federal government should be IDPs because they do not have any source of income, only through donations from people.”

Vulnerable and Forgotten…

The announcement of the lockdown caused intense apprehensions in Durumi camp due to their daily fight for survival. The restriction of movement has brought untold hardship in the camp as most of the residents largely rely on income from their daily hustle.

There was respite when the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) reached out to the secretary of the camp requesting for their bank details. But three weeks have gone and the IDPs are yet to receive palliatives from the federal government.

“The Government did not check on our people or bring anything. The Refugees Commission promised to bring something but they have not done that for close to three weeks. Even the bank details we collected, the commission has not come to collect it.

“If you go to different IDP camps, it is the same situation. Others living around us who are not displaced- Igbos, Gbagyi, Calabar, they came here after hearing that the government will bring food for us but we told them we have not received anything”, Ahmed lamented bitterly.

The ‘hunger-virus’ that killed two…

Residents of the camps were sensitized about the effects and safety guidelines of coronavirus by media stations who had earlier visited the camp.

As a means to prevent the virus from getting to the camp, the Chairman advised that they remain around or within the premises.

While they had so far complied, the rules were temporarily suspended on the 15th of April, when they were alerted that a food truck on the expressway of Apo, an area close to the camp, was distributing food items.

Two brothers, Umar and Ibrahim, who were bike riders, dashed off to the scene and were fortunate to get a bag of rice despite the stampede.

On their way back to the camp, the duo sighted the Police and tried to make a U-turn to avoid being caught: they got hit by an on-coming jeep. One of the brothers was preparing for his marriage before the sad incident occurred.

“It was people who were equally looking for food that saw their bodies, identified them and traced them to our camp. Then, the Road Safety officials brought their corpse to us. No government official has condoled with us over their death”, Ali recounted in dismay.

‘Hunger-virus’ is not the only threat to their livelihood but how to practice social distancing in a tightly contained environment which serves as an avenue for the virus to thrive. They are worried.

“It is God saving us here. If coronavirus gets here, it will kill our poor families. Allah! If it enters our camp, many people will die. I swear. We warn our people not to go to town to look for food so they won’t bring the virus to the camp”, the Chairman said.

Arrival of the ‘Saviours’

Since the palliatives from the federal government stopped in July 2019, aids from religious institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have helped to mitigate the effect of poverty in the camp. But the lockdown has impeded these efforts.

Then, ‘saviours’ from a private company appeared and made it their responsibility to bring lunch to the camp daily to all the children and some women.

This day of visiting the camp was no exception as two vehicles from the organisation entered the premises of the camp at 2:05 pm to dish out food.

The donor taught the minors social distancing, made them wash their hands before collecting a plate of beans.

The Chief Executive Officer of the organization, Kingsley Obokhare, said he was prompted to support when it occurred to him that displaced persons will be one of the worst-hit due to the restriction of movement.

“When the lockdown started, it was so clear that we had to stock our homes with food following the directives from the government. Then I thought, (IDPs) do not have the money or the means to stock up. We then decided to put somethings together and started coming to the camp. We had collaborations with a club- corporate kickers and some well-meaning Nigerians. This is the 19th day of coming here”, he said.

Obokhare stays in Mararaba, a town in Nasarawa state and drives through several checkpoints to put a smile on the children’s faces.

“I don’t stay in town. I stay in Mararaba. Do you know the checkpoints to pass before I get here? It is killing! But I know a child is going to be happy when I come to town. It is painful to know that no money has been issued out. There was a time when we came late and it was scorching.

“They saw us and screamed with excitement. In other countries, they are giving these things free. We give a meal of N500 per child. If this medium can help us, we can do more for the women”, he added.