Aishat Abba, a 35-year-old mother, spends her days in a crush of beggars soliciting alms from people in passing cars in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. She’s says it’s the only way her family can survive.
She’s one of hundreds of women and girls who’ve turned to begging after fleeing attacks from the Islamist group Boko Haram in the countryside. Abba and her children escaped their hometown of Dalakaleri, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, after a militant raid killed scores of people, including her husband.
“The Borno state government came to my aid with some assistance, but it wasn’t enough because my husband who put bread on my table has been lost and I have to find a way of feeding myself and my four children,” Abba said in a roadside interview near a military checkpoint.
Maiduguri, like other major towns in the region, has become a refuge for civilians fleeing the widening insurgency in Africa’s biggest oil producer. Boko Haram attacks have forced more than 350,000 people to leave their homes, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. The United Nations Refugee Agency last week appealed to donors for $34 million to provide aid to more than 75,000 people who’ve escaped the violence in the past year across the border into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Thousands of others are living in caves and forests, Oliver Doeme, the Catholic bishop of Maiduguri, said in an e-mailed statement on Sept. 18. Within the city alone, 58,000 people are staying at five camps for the displaced, according to the NEMA.
At least 25 towns and villages in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are now under the control of Boko Haram fighters, many in mainly Christian areas where residents are ordered to convert to Islam or risk death, Doeme said.
“We are faced with a huge humanitarian crisis; people are sleeping on the streets in Maiduguri,” he said. “The state government is doing her bit to provide for them, but the number is overwhelming and the resources are limited.”
While the insurgency is having a “devastating” effect on the economies of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, there is a minimal impact on the rest of the country, President Goodluck Jonathan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Africa in New York yesterday.