Nigeria: "If we are lucky we get to eat once a day"

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MSF is providing food aid to families in Maiduguri who receive little or no support from other organisations. Many of these people live in the Muna area on the outskirts of the city, where there are eight informal camps with populations ranging from 500 to 6,000 people.

Two of the settlements that now benefit from food distribution by MSF are Muna Primary and Muna Gulumba. Both camps have a population of around 500 people.  People living in Muna Primary receive cash-based support from the World Food Programme (WFP). Muna Gulumba does not get any form of support from the government or other NGOs, aside from that which is provided by MSF. MSF started distributing food in these camps in November.

So far, each family has received 25 kg of millet, 5 kg of beans and 5 litres of palm oil – enough to last for two weeks – as well as eight bars of soap.  


Hauwa Abba and her family fled their home in Abadan two years ago
following an attack and now live in a camp in Maiduguri.
Photo: Malik Samuel/MSF

Hauwa Abba’s family 

“We left our home in Abadan two years ago with just the clothes on our backs. At around five in the evening, armed men came into our town and started shooting. Everyone panicked. We were so scared that we didn’t have time to pack anything. We left everything, even the produce that we had grown. 

We lived close to the border with Niger, so crossed into Niger and stayed for a week. After that, we spent what little money we had on getting to Maiduguri. People helped by giving us food. We couldn’t afford for my husband to come with us and he is still in Niger. I don’t speak to him very often, but at least I know that he is okay.

We get food once in a while, but not regularly. If we are lucky we get to eat once a day, but sometimes we have no choice but to go to sleep hungry. The only work that we can find is labouring on people’s farms, but it’s not always possible. At times we have to beg for food in town.

Fortunately, none of the children has been very sick since we arrived. Our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough food.

Luckily, the owner of this outhouse lets us live here free of charge. Altogether nine people sleep in this outhouse every night – five of my children and three of my grandchildren. We don’t have a mattress so we sleep on a mat on the floor. It’s not very comfortable. It doesn’t compare to the home that we had. We had a farm, we could take care of ourselves. It is very hard for us to live in these conditions. 

I would like to go home, but only if it is peaceful. We will know that it is safe when other people start to go back. We hear from people living nearby that Abadan is still deserted. I have heard that part of my house has collapsed, but I don’t know what is left. Many of our neighbours’ houses have burnt down.

We would like the children to be able to go to school, but we can’t afford the uniforms or school fees. Maybe next year we will be able to save some money to send them to school. But my biggest hope is just to have food regularly. We are so hungry most of the time.”


Maira Modu (second from left) pictured here with her family and some
her six children, fled her home in Bama one year ago following an
attack. Photo: Malik Samuel/MSF

Maira Modu’s family

“We left our village in Bama one year ago. Our life there was comfortable, we had everything that we wanted. At home, we could farm, but here we do not have access to any land.

We left our village because of an attack. We left at night, in such a rush that we took nothing with us apart from our children.

We trekked on foot – it took four days to reach Maiduguri. We knew that armed men were patrolling the area so we hid every time we heard a motorbike or a car. We stayed out of sight until we couldn’t hear the sound of the vehicle any longer.

It was really difficult for the children. Two of them fell sick and they have not yet recovered. They have fever, coughing and are stressed. But we are here now and managing with what we have. 

Most days we only eat once and have to go to sleep with empty stomachs. We have only been given food twice by MSF; otherwise, we rely on family members who live in Maiduguri. They give us food not because they have a lot, but because they have human feelings. 

During the day, if we have food to eat, then we cook, but if we don’t have to cook, we have nothing to do. We just stay here in the camp. If we want anything for our children, we cannot give it to them. We can’t afford school, there is no playground. The children are with us all of the time.

It’s very difficult to sleep at night. Nine of us sleep in this shelter and there is not very much space. Some of us sleep outside.

We would like a blanket, shelter, food and to go back to our community. We would like people to know about the hardship that we face. Life is difficult for us here. We don’t have water, food or detergent to wash our children’s clothes. At home they could go to school, they had a playground. 

We know that our home has burnt down, like most of the homes in our village. But we still want to go back when it is peaceful.”


Mallaam Haruna and her family fled their home in Gambaru, Ngala two
years ago following an attack and have been living in a camp in
Maiduguri even since. Photo: Malik Samuel/MSF

Mallaam Haruna’s family

“It was a Monday morning when our village in Gambaru, Ngala, was attacked. People came and started shooting everywhere. We woke to the sound of gunfire.

We hid in our houses. At night, when the place was quiet and the people with the guns were sleeping, we fled. I could not find two of my children so we had to leave without them. We were so scared. We thought that the people with guns would attack us. 

We trekked for four days to get to Maiduguri. We didn’t think that we would make it here alive. When I met one of my children on the road, I was so happy. I thought I’d never see them again.

On the journey, we stopped at small villages to ask people for food. They were packing their belongings to leave, but they still gave us something to eat. We carried a small kettle and filled it up every time that we passed a water source. We slept on the side of the road or under a tree. There was a group of about 20 of us walking together, and even more people behind us.

We have been here now for two years. Our main problem is food and how we will get it. Usually, we eat once a day, but sometimes we give the food we have to the children and we go hungry. We’ve only had one distribution of food since we arrived.

It’s hard for us to stay healthy here. My grandson has been sick for the past two weeks. This is the fourth time that he’s been ill since we arrived. He has a fever and his temperature is rising. Sometimes he can’t eat. I have a cough and, once I start coughing, I can’t stop for a couple of minutes.

It isn’t easy to sleep here. We get scared that the camp will be attacked and it gets very cold at night. If there is peace we would like to go home. We know that all our possessions have been taken from our house, but we hope that at least the building will still be there.”

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