With the contribution from the Government of Japan, UNICEF supports the protection of children affected by the Lake Chad crisis, offering them the means to relieve their trauma, reunify with their family and reintegrate safely in their community.
From one village to another, the story is often similar. Not a lot more than 10 year-old when their life was suddenly disrupted by Boko Haram entering their communities, killing and forcefully enrolling villagers and their children.
Return to normal life after Boko Haram is however not a straight and easy path. Unaccompanied children on the move are indeed most at risk of the worst forms of abuse and harm, and reintegration in communities that have been themselves affected by the conflict, creates further obstacles.
With the aim of creating the conditions needed for children to relieve their trauma and reintegrate safely in communities, UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Women, Family and National Solidarity in establishing a transitional care center (TCC) in Bol (Lake Chad Region). Since the end of 2016, 105 children have been reintegrated through the TCC, receiving psycho-social care but also family tracing and reunification services and training.
« I do not wish any other child to live what I lived. With Boko Haram, finding food was difficult and we were living in constant fear. We missed our family and we had no freedom. This without mentioning the unending bombing and death. I stayed more than a month at the TCC where they gave me blankets, clothes and trained me in stitching. Today I am back with my family, and even if there is not much, I eat well and manage as fisherman to provide for my needs. » Djaba*, 16 year-old, reintegrated in his community about a year ago.
« I really liked being at the TCC as we were having a safe and peaceful life. We played football, cards, were eating well and having a bath whenever we wanted. Sometimes I even miss the TCC. Back in Melea, adults accepted me right away, but children used to run away from me. I stayed a month at home doing nothing, until I started farming after seeing other youth doing so. My grand-mother gave me this field and the TCC members who come one or two times a month, bring me seeds for my field. I have already harvested 2 times, and with the money from the sell I bought clothes, a cell phone and some other products to meet my basic needs. » Oumar*, 16 year-old, fled Boko Haram with another youth in 2015 and spent 5 months in school with the military before being sent to the TCC end of 2016.
« My contribution is not material. I helped children to reintegrate their communities and encourage them to go to school. I talk with communities for them to understand and accept the children back. To work as fisherman, you have to pay a ‘tax’ to authorities but after I talked to them they understood the vulnerability of these children and agreed they should not pay this ‘tax’ » Abakar Mara Adam, land chief, has engaged to support reintegration of children in the community. Preparing communities that have themselves been affected by the conflict is critical. The TCC has been liaising with communities to ensure children are properly attended for and reintegrated.
« I told the Social Delegate I wanted to do some trade to help my mother, and the TCC helped me building the kiosk here and gave me a small start-up grant to buy basic products. Thank god, products such as flour and sugar sells well. I manage to sell 2 bags of sugar and 50 kg of rice per week, which is enough to live and feed back into our ‘business’. I am quite happy with my situation and I hope to become a big trader here or back in our island when calm will come back. » Moussa, 14 year-old, asked to be reunified with his mother, his sister and 3 brothers.
Boko Haram crisis has severely affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of families within the Lack Chad region, uprooting girls and boys from their villages and communities and increasing their vulnerability to violence and harm. In 2017, with the contribution of the Government of Japan, UNICEF and his partners have provided psychosocial support to 15,313 children refugees, displaced or associated with armed group, supported family reunification and reintegration services for 122 unaccompanied and separated minors, trained and accompanied the establishment of 20 community-based protection mechanisms, and educated 27,384 people on mine risks.