As the situation in northeast Nigeria becomes more stable and many displaced people move back home, the Nigeria Crisis Response program is beginning to transition to long-term recovery activities, while still supporting basic needs of displaced Nigerians and members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). This week, EYN leaders confirmed food shortages in some areas of the northeast, and have requested continued food aid at least through the end of 2016.
Nigerian media have reported hunger and starvation at government-run IDP camps for displaced people in remote areas north and east of the city of Maiduguri–which are not areas of high EYN populations. However, food shortages are occurring in some areas south of Maiduguri where Nigerian Brethren have been returning to their home communities.
In recent weeks, EYN also has recorded some more deaths of church members at the hands of Islamist insurgents, and violence continues to plague some areas of northeast Nigeria.
Material aid continues amid food shortages
With the majority of EYN members having been displaced and living in temporary and difficult circumstances for many months, if not years, the early phases of the Nigeria Crisis Response assisted people with very basic needs including food and shelter. By the middle of 2016, EYN and other partner organizations had distributed food and household supplies to 28,970 family units. Nearly 3,000 people were reached with medical care.
In recent weeks, food shortages have been reported in northeast Nigeria. This week Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill spoke with Yuguda Mdurvwa, director of the disaster team of EYN, who confirmed that there is a considerable shortage of food in the IDP camps and areas north of Maiduguri, and in communities around Mubi and Michika. Mdurvwa said the problem is compounded by inflated food prices.
The disaster team, with funding from the Nigeria Crisis Fund, has been providing food monthly to people in the northeast. Mdurvwa has asked that more funds be made available to provide food through the end of 2016.
Housing and rebuilding
As the crisis response moves into long-term recovery, other emphases are helping people to rebuild homes and plant and harvest crops.
However, housing for displaced families who will not be returning to their home areas is still being provided at six care centers, one of which is intentionally interfaith and includes both Christian and Muslim families. So far, 220 houses have been built at these care centers as part of the Nigeria Crisis Response. Some care centers now have schools, and residents are looking forward to harvesting crops they have planted.
For displaced Nigerians who are moving back home, the Nigeria Crisis Response is helping to roof destroyed houses of the most vulnerable people. The re-roofing work has now reached 3 of 5 zones, with 250 houses receiving new metal roofs.
In addition to responding to physical needs, EYN members and their neighbors traumatized by violence have required help to heal psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Six EYN leaders received trauma healing training in Rwanda, and began holding workshops for trauma healing. Other leadership for trauma healing has come from Mennonite Central Committee and from Brethren volunteers from the United States. Some of the first people to attend these workshops were pastors, for whom healing was crucial as they continued to lead in the church.
Some 32 trauma healing workshops have now been held, assisting 800 people, and training 21 facilitators and 20 listening partners.
A new initiative in 2016 has brought trauma healing to children through the Healing Hearts curriculum developed by Children’s Disaster Services. Workshops in May trained 14 facilitators who have in turn trained 55 teachers in trauma healing for children.
Peacebuilding is an important aspect of the recovery for EYN. As Christian and Muslim families return to places that have been torn apart by the crisis, trust and a sense of community must be rebuilt as well. This part of the journey home will be neither easy nor quick.
In the midst of continuing violence, EYN has been working to promote peace and reconciliation, particularly with Muslim neighbors who also have been terrorized. In May, EYN and CAMPI (Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative) received the Michael Sattler Peace Prize from the German Mennonite Peace Committee for their work in sharing the message of peace and love together. To help with the peace process, nine EYN leaders have been sent to Rwanda for training in Trauma and Alternatives to Violence.
Livelihood support, focusing on the most vulnerable–especially women with children–has enabled some displaced people to start supporting themselves through micro-business endeavors. These have involved sewing, knitting, bean cake production, groundnut [peanut] processing, and computer skills. Recipients receive skills training, equipment, tools, materials, and business training to help them be successful.
More than 1,500 micro-businesses have been started, a number of widows have been provided with goats and chickens, and 3 skills acquisition centers have been started where widows and orphans learn computer, sewing, and knitting skills.
Agriculture is a major element of the long-term recovery in Nigeria. This is critical to helping displaced Nigerians support themselves as they return home.
The Nigeria Crisis Response has distributed corn seeds and fertilizer to more than 2,000 families, and 3,000 families soon will receive bean seeds. Other small projects are planned involving chickens, goats, and sustainable agriculture.
Education for children is critical as well, as a hope-building part of the healing for northern Nigeria. Children have begun studying in temporary schools, tents, and even under trees or beside ruined structures.
Through the work of partners of the Nigeria Crisis Response, some 2,000 children, including orphans, are again receiving education.
Support for EYN
EYN members who are returning to homes in the northeast are gaining strength and hope by beginning to worship together again. Many have built temporary structures next to their broken and burned churches.
The Nigeria Crisis Response and the Church of the Brethren in the US have helped to strengthen and encourage EYN as a church, and to increase the capacity of its leadership.
In 2016, restoration of the EYN headquarters in Kwarhi and of Kulp Bible College–both of which had for a time been overtaken by Boko Haram–has allowed many leaders and students to move back to the northeast.
EYN’s new president, Joel Billi, currently is on a nationwide “Sympathy, Reconciliation and Encouragement Tour” to reach out to church members and support their recovery.
Continued and constant prayer as well as financial support for the Nigeria Crisis Fund will reassure sisters and brothers in Nigeria that they are not forgotten.
For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis
— Sharon Franzén, office manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Carl and Roxane Hill, Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors, contributed to this report. Read a blogpost by Zander Willoughby, the most recent US Brethren volunteer to work in Nigeria, at https://www.brethren.org/blog/category/nigeria . Find the Nigeria Crisis Response website at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis