Alirou reached out and touched his father on the ground

The Sunday Times (South Africa) tells of how Boko Haram is making life hell for the people it doesn’t murder.

In a makeshift hut sheltered from a stinging desert wind, Adama Issaika holds her infant daughter close. Three months ago, she stood helpless as gunmen from the Islamist group Boko Haram lined up her husband and relatives against a mosque and shot them dead.

“My littlest boy, Alirou, reached out and touched his father on the ground,” she recalled.

One of thousands of Nigerians who piled into crude canoes to escape across Lake Chad to neighboring Chad, Issaika is caught in West Africa’s vice of anguish.

That’s how.

Destitute in the best of times, Chad has been inundated by Nigerians escaping Boko Haram as well as economically strangled by the results of the group’s actions. The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 people face severe malnutrition because of reduced trade with Nigeria.

And that’s how.

Sylvestre Bebang, district medical officer in Mao, about an hour from the lake, stood in searing heat one recent day and assessed the situation. He said 90% of the province’s reserve food stocks had been depleted in the first quarter of the year and he and his colleagues are now forced to turn away mothers with their children.

“We estimated that 229 children will need treatment for malnutrition each month,” Bebang said. “In April, we screened more than 1,000 children.”

And that.

A walk through the Saturday market in the town of Baga Sola produced other examples of hardship. Zari Gayi said she is now forced to sell a handful of tomatoes, onions and mangos to support her four children because her husband, who used to operate a ferry on the lake, is out of work. On a good day, she pulls in the equivalent of $5.

When Issaika, whose husband was killed, lived in Tounbounyashi, a small Nigerian coastal village near Baga, life was relatively good. She sold fabric while her husband fished and the family lived reasonably comfortably off rice, chicken, yams and fish.

She said that in February, when Boko Haram militants rounded up the community and demanded Baga’s chief be handed over, she hid her eldest daughter, 15-year-old Samsia.

“I heard stories of them taking teenage girls,” she said cradling her youngest girl, Yati, 18 months old.

As wild, dusty wind rocked her shack, Issaika recounted how Boko Haram militants threatened to “slaughter you all as punishment for fleeing Baga.” She added, “People were very scared, one man begged and joined Boko Haram and he was not killed.”

It’s like a plague or a massive earthquake, only worse, because there’s human malevolence behind it.


  1. Dunc says

    And here’s how US law is helping them:

    Hundreds of women and girls have been forcibly impregnated by Boko Haram. Unofficially, 214 of the recently rescued girls have been reported pregnant after facing horrific circumstances of sexual slavery and violence. Organizations like the UNFPA are working as best they can to provide for the women, with a spokesperson saying, “We look after them and ensure they get antenatal care and that they deliver properly and that they even get cesarean section when necessary.” While UNFPA are doing good work helping these pregnant women and girls, they are hamstrung, by a decades old US policy, from providing the full range of medical services these women and girls require.


    The Geneva Conventions guarantees that war victims receive all the medical care required by their condition, for women and girls raped in armed conflict, that medical care includes the option of abortion. In 1973, Senator Jesse Helms passed the Helms Amendment, which bans the sending of any US foreign aid money to any organization that performs or even discusses abortion services. Four decades later, this misguided amendment is still in place and having very real consequences for the aid organizations providing services to the brave women and girls rescued in Nigeria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *