Lake Chad Basin crisis: Building resilience in the face of neglect

Andrew was selected for the ‘uncoditional cash programme’. He is grateful to the organizations now helping him and his family. Photo: Tom Saater / Oxfam
Andrew was selected for Oxfam's ‘unconditional cash programme’. He is grateful to the organizations now helping him and his family. Photo: Tom Saater / Oxfam

Andrew, once an industrious farmer from Pulka, Borno Estate, in Nigeria, found his life turned upside down when he was caught up in the conflict with Boko Haram and other armed groups in 2012. Tragically, he lost the lower part of both of his arms in the conflict. The once proud provider for an extended family of four wives and 17 children, was also left with no cattle to farm, stolen by the armed groups. 

“Our problems started about 5 years ago when we all fled to Cameroon in search of safety. I was on my way back to the village – following my family – when I was detained and tied up.” Andrew was eventually released, but his arms were severely injured and could not be saved. He managed to return home, where he soon realized the armed group had stolen all 75 bags of sorghum he had left before the escape. “I sold all my assets because I have no means to support my children. I have already lost two of them because of suffering and hunger.”

Andrew used to farm in large scale before the armed crisis started, harvesting an average of 200 bags of cotton, beans and sorghum for domestic and commercial purposes. Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam Andrew used to farm in large scale before the armed crisis started, harvesting an average of 200 bags of cotton, beans and sorghum for domestic and commercial purposes. He cannot work anymore. Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam

Andrew, now aged 40, is one of the beneficiaries of Oxfam’s “Unconditional Cash Program”. Thanks to this and the “Cash for Work” programs, people in Pulka and other affected communities are directly benefiting, while also supporting the development of local infrastructure. In total, 600 people are engaged in community sanitation and environmental rehabilitation in return for cash. The 100 most vulnerable, Andrew’s family among them, receive Oxfam’s cash support unconditionally. 

Andrew used the money received from Oxfam to buy seeds for growing crops. However, he fears for their safety during the harvest as last year an armed group attacked several farmers and took most of the produce.

Two girls at a waterpoint in Maiduguri, Borno State. Photo: Tom Saater/OxfamTwo girls at an Oxfam water point in Maiduguri (close to Pulka village), Borno State. Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam

“My wives haven’t gone to the farm or fetch water for the past 20 years, as I was able to, but now they’re not even at home, they’re all on the farm.”

Despite having been through so much, he and his family are becoming resilient and have learned to adapt to the challenges. They are fully engaged in what little farming they can do and his children are still studying, even though many schools in Pulka are in ruins.

Andrew explains he received help from people in their community before organizations started the aid programs. He is grateful to Oxfam and the other organizations now helping him and his family.

Support Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis

We have been working in Pulka area since February 2017, improving the limited access to water, constructing latrines and bathing facilities, distributing household items such as jerry cans and conducting public health promotion. 

Although the teams are doing what they can to provide sufficient water, there is still not enough to deliver more than five liters per person, which is a far cry from the humanitarian minimum standard of 15 liters.

Over the past three months, nearly 10,000 more people have arrived in Pulka from surrounding areas and from Cameroon, following their government’s instructions. Humanitarian organizations have warned consistently that the conditions in Pulka are neither dignified nor safe. However, due to continued insecurity, there is no hope that the displaced will be able to return to their villages in the near future.

We are providing life-saving support but we need your help to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe. Please donate now.