EYN Leaders Visit Refugee Camps, Pilot Relocation Project Starts

Photo courtesy of EYN staff
Displaced people from the Michika area have gathered in Yola

Over the past couple of weeks, leaders and staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have shared about the hardships faced by Brethren and others fleeing the violence in northeast Nigeria, and the struggle of EYN and its leadership in the midst of the crisis. The news has come through reports to Church of the Brethren staff in the US, and piecemeal through brief e-mails, calls, texts, and Facebook posts.

Violence in recent weeks has centered around Michika, north of the city of Mubi close to the border with Cameroon, forcing thousands to flee to the town of Yola where EYN leaders have reported makeshift camps of thousands of displaced people and a desperate food situation.

In the area around Maiduguri–a large city in northeast Nigeria–Boko Haram seizure of several communities and the ensuing fierce fighting between the Nigerian army and the insurgents have caused many thousands of people to seek refugee in Maiduguri. A recent statement from the Catholic Archbishop of Maiduguri also indicated food shortages there.

Also reported by EYN leaders via Facebook posts and photos, was a meeting last week in the capital city Abuja aimed at interfaith cooperation and conversation with Muslim leaders as well as the wider Christian ecumenical community.

EYN staff have been among those losing loved ones in the violence of recent days. Family members of one EYN staff person were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a hospital, and after coming out of hiding to find food. Another EYN leader lost a nephew who had been in the army and was part of the fighting near Maiduguri.

Progress on pilot relocation project

EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache has reported progress in the pilot project to purchase land to relocate displaced people in central Nigeria. As of last week, a fenced plot of land had been given to construct metal houses for temporary use.

Photo courtesy of EYN/Markus Gamache
A view of the site for the pilot relocation project that is beginning to receive displaced people in central Nigeria. The project is getting funding through Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund.

A blessing for the pilot project was held on Sept. 20 with Filibus Gwama, a former president of EYN, joining Gamache at the site to bless the first group of youth helping to receive people who are relocated there.

“More of these metal housing is needed now since mud blocks are not possible because of rain,” Gamache wrote. “We cannot serve all people, only the lucky ones get in here. We have identified orphans and widows from Gwoza  up to Michika who are ready to occupy this kind of facility. Families are joining other families in the bush to wait until when construction is done for them.”

In his most recent update on the project, received late last week, Gamache reported:

“The relocation project is necessary to give people hope and little rest [from] running every day. Helps from different sources [are] still not sufficient. The relocation project is just starting but it seems the help needs to be expanded because of the pressure from families that want to completely leave the entire North East….

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is how to reach the most in need camps. Some of these camps are not easy to access being surrounded by BH [Boko Haram]. Children are dying of different ailments, old people left at home and those that were on sick bed before the attack are also dying one after the other. Families that are separated are worried [about] their families members, more especially mothers are much worried of their young children that might have fallowed another family and no connection to know about their well being. Some people are being killed in the process of moving from one camp to another in order to trace their younger ones.”

For more about the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria and about EYN, go to www.brethren.org/nigeria . To help contribute to the relief effort, give to the Global Mission and Service program through the donate button on the Nigeria page of the website, or give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at www.brethren.org/edf .

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