Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
It was a cool evening and the children in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in Uhogua in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State have to troop out en masse to the open space in the camp, to play the games of their choice.
The boys were busy playing football on one side while the girls were seen playing handball, basketball even playing the game that was once exclusively reserved for the males, that is the football.
While running around and playing the games with zest, enthusiasm and joy, forgetting their pains, agonies and sorrows; deep down in their hearts, lies the question of what they will eat when the games are over. Actually, it is suffering and smiling in the camp as their various storehouses are completely empty of food items and medications.
Depicting this scenario, the fire spots that usually house about seven big pots of the locally prepared meal called Tuo Shincafa, were reduced to three at the time Daily Sun visited the camp. This is because the house is seriously hit with dearth of foodstuffs. It is a place where even the bravest will shed tears because hunger and starvation loom large in the camp.
Barika Promise Joshua, an IDP from Gworza Local Government, Borno State, told Daily Sun: “I want the government and every spirited individual to come and help us. If you go to our warehouse, it is very empty. Children are suffering and we really need help. Even the aspect of health, go to our health centre, drugs are very scanty and we need their help really.”
Joshua arrived the camp in 2014 while in JSS 11. She narrated: “I came here since 2014 and when I came here, I was in JSS11 and I came here because of the insurgency. It was so intense that I had to run for my dear life. I was out of school.
“When the insurgency drove me away from my state, I went to Adamawa State, the local government called Madagali. I did not stay long before the Boko Haram came to displace us. I went to other IDPs camp and right there, I was also faced with other hardship. There was no food, blanket and other valuable things before I finally landed at the Uhogua camp.
“By the help of God, Pastor (Solomon) helped us. When I got here, I continued with my studies and by the grace of God, pastor helped us, encouraged us. He made us to know that we do not have to be discouraged and by the grace of God, I took the courage, started school.
“I studied hard and fortunately at the end of my SS3, I was able to make my result in one sitting both WAEC and NECO. I wrote JAMB last year and God has helped me and I made it. By the grace of God, I am in the university right now, University of Benin studying Animal Biology and Environment Zoology.”
He advised other children in various camps across the country never to give up in their dreams: “When there is a will, there will always be a way and that has always helped me. My advice to my friends in the various IDPs camps is that they should never lose hope.
“They should always have the courage to create a way and never to give room to failure. When I am out of here, I am already sure that I am heading towards a brighter future and when I get there, I will come back to help them.”
For David Joseph, the war of insurgency has affected him so much. His parents were killed by Book Haram insurgents: “I am from Borno State in Gworza local government Area. This Boko Haram insurgency has affected me so much to the extent that I cannot explain everything.
“When they attacked our village, we were forced to scatter everywhere, children living in the bush. In 2013, they attacked our village and killed my parents and my uncles. We are just few that survived it and we have scattered all over the places.
“I trekked for three days from Gworza Mountain and without food. I got injured when I was running on the mountain for my dear life. I did not meet with my brothers and sisters for about a year. When I eventually met with one of my siblings, he told me that the Boko Haram poisoned my mother and she died in the Boko Haram while they shot and killed my father at the mountain.
“I trekked from where I was staying to Adamawa State for three days. When I got there, I was staying with the people I did not know. In 2015, there was one of my uncles that staying in Kano, so I went to him. It was there I heard about this Uhogua IDP camp.
“My junior brother who is eight years now, I last saw him when he was two. When he saw me, he did not recognise me again because we have been separated from each other for a very long time and I thank God that he is here with me. I appreciate God that when I came here, they accepted me and took care of me.”
For Merit Okoye, being in the camp did not dampen her determination to go to school and pursue her career: “I am in 100 level in the University of Benin studying Foreign Languages.
“My advise to my friends is that they should find a sport that they are good. Sport is an exercise and it will help build up their bodies. I came here when I was in SS3 and I am now in 100 level.”
Sala Bakaya was in JSS1 when she came to the camp but now in SS3: “We thank Pastor Solomon for taking care of us. I came here when I was in JSS 1 and now I am in SS3 and I am about writing my exams now.
“I thank God and I appreciate God for saving my life. I want to use this opportunity to call on everyone to come and help us. We need food, clothes, school materials, drugs and things that will make life comfortable for us here. I want to be a doctor.
“My advise to other IDPs is that they should stand strong and focus on their education while those that are learning skills should also concentrate on what they are doing and God is going to see them through.”
Pastor Evelyn Omigie, a camp supervisor, told Daily Sun: “As I am talking to you now, we have so many challenges. I call on every meaning Nigerian to come to the aid of these children. In fact, food is a critical need.
“Our warehouse is empty. We need support in the area of food, all kinds of foodstuffs. In fact, everything that human being can feed on for these ones.
“They are victims of circumstances, which they never cause for themselves. We call on everyone to come and reduce the plights of these children and also in the area of education. We need scholarship for those who have gotten admission into the universities. We need textbooks, writing materials, everything that academic require from them.
“We need skill acquisition centre because here. We are a technically-accredited centre. We need a skill acquisition centre that will enable those who are not too educationally inclined at least, they can learn these things and just do the exams to just have the certificate on the trades that they have learnt.
“In the area of health, we need medicines. We need ambulance, in fact, anything that is good for the health to take care of the health needs of the children. We need hostels the girls need sanitary pads. We have over a thousand of them in this compound and we cannot just leave them like that. We spend a lot to buy it for them.
“The boys need pants and all that. We call on NGOs, individuals, everybody around the world to come to help them. In doing that, it gives them joy because considering what they have gone through, they are highly traumatised. Now that they are out of it, they need to live a good life. We call on everyone out there to come and help them to make them live a very good life like other people in the society.”