ACCORDING to a recent Flash Displacement Report in North West and North East by the International Office of Migration (IOM), insurgency and banditry have both led to the displacement of over 3.8 million people in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara over the last 10 years.
These crisis has also left thousands of sheltered innocent civilians dead, unemployed and under-nourished. With over two million people receiving emergency food assistance and livelihood support each month from the govt, corporate bodies and wealthy individuals.
Over a million more people are severely food insecure and need emergency aid with near-famine conditions being identified in Katsina and Zamfara States. For Katsina, it’s a tale for despair, damage and destruction for hundreds of settlements in the state.
As the Federal Government commenced collection of data of people affected by the prevailing insecurity in some Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, I am forced to remember how struck I was by the painful stories of these displaced persons during a fact-finding visit to the state recently.
Hundreds of thousands of women and girls are subjected to untold anguish and agony by terrorists in the state and listening to these women and girls, who have survived sexual violence by bandits and insurgents, one will fully understands not only the physical but also the psychological and social destruction that this level of violent conflict creates.
Ramatu Abu, one of the displaced widows said, her husband was killed in an attack by bandits at Unguwar Ibrahim of Faskari Local Govt Area in December 2021 and she has been at the displaced persons’ camp since then with her four children.
“Our village was attacked on that cold night, almost all the houses were burnt down and my husband was killed in that attack and I was left with four children, the eldest is 17 years now and I have been the one catering for them in this camp since then”.
“I have totally forgotten what a proper shelter feels like, myself and my four daughter – including two teenage girls, we all sleep in this little tent in the rain, cold and sunshine”, Ramatu added.
Aminatu, is a 10-year-old girl, whose parents where killed in an attack on her village of Hayin Kanya in Batsari Local Govt area of the state. Amina was repeatedly assaulted by a gang of bandits before she was thrown in a well and left to die.
The district head of Batsari and some villagers found her unconscious and nursed her back to health – Amina hasnt spoken a word in over 9 months after she was found in the well.
Talatu, a mother, and her 14-year-old daughter, Adama were abducted from their village, Dan Sudu of Matazu Local Govt of Katsina state, when the bandits attacked the village in August last year. Talatu and Adama were dragged away from the homes on that cold night.
The mother and daughter were simultaneously abused and assaulted by the bandits for over a year before they were rescued by a security raid on the bandits’ camp two months ago. Both mother and daughter are pregnant, sick and hopeless.
Another displaced person, Madu Ibrahim, 55, said, he has been jumping from one camp to another for two years after the bandits attacked his village and left with his wife and three daughters.
“My village was attacked 2 years ago and they kidnapped my wife and three of my daughters. I have been jumping from one camp to another with my three sons. I am now their father and their mother. Most times, I sleep outside in the cold, so the tent will be enough for them”, he lamented.
Kaltume, an 11-year-old girl living with disabilities, was also abducted by the bandits after her village of Mabai was attacked in June 2021. She was repeatedly abused by the bandits before she was rescued by security during a raid on the bandits camp in the out-sketch of Kurfi Local Govt of the state.
Echoing Kaltume’s experience, Laraba Ibrahim says bandits burned her home, killed her parents, husband, son and stole her family’s 6 cows from their village of Tudun Kaya, just outside Mabai town.
Laraba and her four children have been displaced for 14 months. They live in an unofficial shelter on Gidan Ahmadu, a dozen kilometers away from Katsina town.
The story is the same for Umma, “bandits came to my village and slaughtered my uncle, his wives and his son. They beheaded my uncle in front of my eyes. My husband abandoned me that day and I haven’t heard from him since. I don’t know if he is dead or alive.”
Umma fled with her older son, two years old at the time and she was pregnant with her second child.
“We slept in the bushes for days and then walked towards Katsina. It’s here that I met Aisha, who helped me and my children”.
For many of these displaced women and girls, who regained their freedom or escaped the gory clutches of the bandits – food, access to health care and shelter are the least of their problems.
Their biggest challenges for these women are the stigma of returning and getting accepted back in a society, that creates more problem for them.
In one example, a brother who was the only living relative of his 16-year-old sister, Asma’u, struggled to accept and show her love because of the stigma associated with her captivity with bandits.
She became re-traumatized due to this stigma and found herself socially and economically destitute, on the margins of the community and unable to reintegrate. And there are hundreds of her likes, who live with the big stigma on their rescue and return home.
Importantly, there are still over 200, 000 displaced persons living in bandits and terrorists’ camps across the state, camps that are extremely difficult or inaccessible for anybody to reach due to continued dominance of the bandits in such areas.
These women and girls wait to live or wait to die, they wait everyday for help, that may never come.