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The right to dream of a better future

By Aicha Chir Nour 

Garba Haroun, 16, used to live peacefully with his family in Baga, a village on the shore of Lake Chad in Nigeria, where most of its inhabitants make a living by fishing. One day, everything changed. “The rumor had been going around already for some time. Boko Haram fighters had started kidnapping young people like me and forcing them to join their troops. Some of my friends had disappeared and none had come back alive,” he says bitterly.

In the summer of 2015, Garba and his family decided to flee in a dugout canoe to Chad. Once arrived on the other bank of Lake Chad in the town of Ngouboua, Garba quickly met with Ila Youssouf, 15, a young Chadian born in Ngouboua. “When I saw him for the first time, we quickly made friends. He spoke Fula, like me. We got along and he told me he wanted to learn French, so I took him to my schoolteacher for him to enroll,” Ila says, grinning.

More than 80% of refugee children from Nigeria in the Lake Chad region have never had the chance to go to school. “In Baga, I helped my father to fish instead. I never even thought about going to school one day. Here, that’s how it is – you have those who can go to school and become a minister and then you have those who remain fishermen or farmers their entire lives, like their parents and their grandparents before them,” Garba adds.

In February 2016, the violence caught up with the two friends. Ngouboua was attacked by Boko Haram, and many people were killed, including the chief of the village. In panic, everybody ran away. Garba tells me about this difficult time: “I was really angry because after leaving everything behind in Nigeria, I was starting to make my new life here. It was very unfair because we hadn’t done anything wrong.” Ila cuts him off and adds, “These are all matters for adults.”

By chance, Ila and Garba both wound up in the Daresalam refugee camp, where most refugees from Nigeria and Chad are now trying to find a peaceful life. “Once I arrived in Daresalam, I asked people if they knew a certain Ila. They told me he was the class president at the school named ‘Hope’ ,” Garba says, smiling, then adding, “this is where we reunited and I started back in school, for good this time, I hope.”

When I asked them if they ever quarreled, Ila answered, smiling, “Yes, like all friends, but we always manage to work things out. Garba can be a bit childish. He’s 15, but he still plays with rubber bands, while I prefer to play football. I love trying to imitate Messi’s moves,” he adds, mock-kicking an imaginary ball in the classroom, causing the two companions to laugh out loud.

Before leaving, Garba told me, “I don’t want to go back to Nigeria. I want to stay here and continue to go to school. Before, I only thought I’d be doing what my father does. Now, I understand that I need to think further if I really want to help my parents.”

Suddenly, the teachers whistled the end of recess. I promised them I’d come back to see them, and they answered, “We promise we’re going to finish school and become great men some day.” And they both left, laughing and leaning on each other’s shoulders.

Garba (blue) fled his village of Baga in Nigeria to find refuge in Chad. Ila (yellow) is a Chadian living in the Lake Chad area. Today, these two children from different origin are best friends and attend school in the refugee camp of Daresalam. They are
Garba (blue) fled his village of Baga in Nigeria to find refuge in Chad. Ila (yellow) is a Chadian living in the Lake Chad area. Today, these two children from different origin are best friends and attend school in the refugee camp of Daresalam. 

Garba is shy while Ila is more a jokester and a tease, but both of them have incredible potential. I leave with the hope that they can learn more so that one day, their dreams will come true. Millions of children – like these two friends – cannot fulfill this potential because of war. I truly believe we can create conditions so that children have an equal chance to survive, develop themselves and thrive! This is the simple recipe for a fair society.

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In Chad, Nigerian refugees are healing their wounds.

By Badre Bahaji

Bagasola, CHAD, March 3, 2016 – « At dawn, my village was attacked. I was already 8-months pregnant but I had no choice, I had to run as fast I could, » explains Binta Mahamadou, a young mother of 6 children. “We were leaving in Baga on the shore of the Lake in Nigeria. We fled to Chad by boat, we left everything we had behind.

Binta, now lives in Dar es Salaam refugee camp, in the Lake Region of Chad, with her little twin babies Mahamadou and Khadija, who were born just a few weeks after she arrived safely in Chad. She gave birth in the hospital of Bagasola, a town located 15 kilometers from the camp.

“We are all survivors here”

« I had a surgery due to complications. The babies were in the breech position and I had to undergo an operation, I was very afraid of losing them. I did not even know that I was expecting twins. I stayed eight days in the hospital before coming back to the camp. Today, my two little babies are fine, healthy, I feel blessed as I see them growing every day. We are all survivors here” she says.

Like this courageous mother who fled the conflict in northeast Nigeria, thousands of refugees are struggling to heal their wounds and rebuild their lives. In Chad, close to 75,000 people have been displaced due to the violence in the Lake region and are now living in refugee and internal displaced camps.

UNICEF, with financial support of United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)[1], is supporting the health facilities and mobile clinics of the region with medicines supplies, including 27,000 vaccines, training and deployment of paramedics and community support for prevention of malnutrition

A relief for women and children

Located in the heart of Dar Es Salaam refugee camp, the UNICEF-supported health center is the busiest facility of the camp, hosting more than 5,000 refugees. Inside several tents, tied up side-by-side, health workers are running consultations, immunizations activities, malnutrition screening and consultation and care to patients.

“Since we’re here, we are all healthy. But most importantly, we are no longer afraid of being attacked in the middle of the night. My children sleep well and they can go to school without being frightened by the sounds of gunshots. It’s the first time they’re going to school, I told them that they are lucky because they will have a better life. They did not have that chance back in Nigeria”, she says.

In 2015, despite insecurity along the Lake Chad, UNICEF and its partners responded to the needs of the population affected by the conflict in northeast Nigeria, particularly in the Sahel belt and around the Lake.

Chad continues to face numerous humanitarian challenges in a context of growing vulnerability. Of the 3.9 million people affected by the different emergencies, an estimated 3.4 million will be food insecure in 2016 and 728,000 children under 5 years of age will suffer from acute malnutrition. In addition, Chad is host to the world’s seventh largest refugee population, with more than 378,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Sudan.

Between 2015 and 2016, UNICEF Chad received close to USD 3,000,000 from the United Nation’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support health care, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and protection interventions for refugees, internally displaced people, returnees and host population affected by the Nigerian crisis in the Lake Region of Chad.

Despite insecurity, UNICEF works with its partners to provide life-saving support to the most vulnerable children and women. This includes providing clean water and life-saving health services, restoring access to education by creating temporary learning spaces, delivering therapeutic treatment to malnourished children, distributing emergency supplies such as buckets, soap and water tanks, and ensuring that children benefits form psychosocial and recreational activities.

[1] USD 1,350,000 allocated for Health and Nutrition activities.