With the help of WFP, Fanaa, a 25-year-old mother, who survived conflict in northeastern Nigeria, has struggled to create a better life for her family
More than a decade of conflict has torn northeast Nigeria apart. Thousands of people have been killed. Hundreds kidnapped, tortured and forcibly detained. Farmers have abandoned their fields, crops have not been harvested, roads have been blocked.
As a result, millions of people across the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe have been displaced and face severe food shortages, verging on famine in some areas. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided life-saving food and nutrition assistance to more than 1.7 million people in the region last year.
Fanaa, 25, was a victim of the insecurity. She fled to Bama five years ago with her four children where she receives food assistance from WFP.
Bama town, in Borno State, is littered with the shells of burnt-out homes. Many streets are derelict and abandoned. Its population numbered 270,000 people. But in 2014, it was occupied by a non-state armed group. When the Nigerian army retook the town six months later, most of the population had fled and almost 85% of the buildings were left damaged or destroyed by the escaping fighters.
Like most of those living here, Fanaa left her village due to insecurity triggered by attacks from non-state groups and counter operations from the military.
“This fighting has destroyed our lives. We have lost so much, nothing but suffering. There is not enough food like before and all the roads are closed,” she says.
“Sometimes, we just had water. I would put it on the fire to boil until the children fell asleep just to assure them that food would soon be ready. I used to pray that hunger would not take my children.” Fanaa explains with a weary sigh. “We lived, we suffered for so long.”
Yangana’s story of how she arrived in Bama, a town on the old trans-Africa route not far from Cameroon, is typical of many.
“When the attacks began in our village, we ran. We no longer had a home, nowhere to wash and no food. We were just running all the time.”
“At one time, I was separated from my husband, children, my mother, and in-laws. We lost each other while running in the forest,” she explained.
After Fanaa found her mother and children, but not her husband, they decided to trek to Bama where traditional leaders said they would be cared for. On arrival, she also found that WFP was providing food. She says the support of WFP and its partners has been invaluable.
“We are so grateful that they have not given up. Not just on us, there are other people, including mothers with lots of children, who were suffering like me,” she says.
As part of its humanitarian assistance, WFP, with contribution from the European Union (EU), is providing life-saving food and nutrition assistance to 1.2 million people in Nigeria during the lean season this year.
“We still need their help. If they leave us, it will be so difficult for us. I don’t know how we will survive,” she added in a quiet voice as one of her children leant against her.
Fanaa hopes one day to return home and back to the life she knew and enjoyed.
“We used to have enough food, we prayed and lived happily together with each. Now, with the crisis we are suffering a lot,” she explains.