Martina, 44, and her four children resettled in Jos, Nigeria, after fleeing Boko Haram.
Have you lost any family members due to the violence in northern Nigeria?
More than 1.5 million Nigerians have been forced to flee their homes because of violent attacks by Boko Haram. In Jos, the capital of Plateau State and an area affected by Boko Haram, SOS Children’s Villages has run a program since 2011 that provides at-risk families with access to healthcare, professional training programs, parenting workshops, education, and psychosocial support, among other types of support.
Of the 257 families currently enrolled in the program, 56 have relocated to Jos after fleeing their villages because of repeated attacks by Boko Haram. Among all 56 families, only the mothers remain with the children. Many of the fathers have been killed by Boko Haram.
Below are excerpts from a recent interview with Martina, a 44-year-old mother who participates in the family-strengthening program in Jos. In March 2012, she and her four children, ages 3-18, fled their village because of attacks by Boko Haram.
I lost my husband and 5 other family members as a result of insurgent attacks in my community.
Why were you forced to flee?
The Kura community in Barkin Ladi [a town near Jos] had been under attack since 2011 by Boko Haram, but [Boko Haram] had not come so close to [our village] and we thought we were safe until one night in the month of February, 2012, as we retired to bed, I heard gun shots and screams. I didn’t know what to do since I am handicapped, [and so] I just called out to my children to come close, and we resigned to faith. Luckily they didn’t get to my house. A lot of houses were burnt that night and people were killed. We had to flee from the community for safety. After a while, my husband went back with some other men to defend the community but he never returned as he was killed by the insurgents.
How did the presence of Boko Haram change life in your community and your home?
There used to be communal harmony, understanding, trust and oneness. All we have now are deserted farm lands with only cattle and their herdsmen. A lot of children, men and women have been killed. Now the entire village is deserted. Our farm lands are wasting where once upon a time was our lifeline.
What did you used to do during the day? Did you work? Did your husband work?
I am handicapped and can’t farm so I used to knit and plait hair for money while my husband was a farmer before he got killed.
Was Jos the first city you went to after fleeing your home? How did you get there? Why did you choose to go there?
My relatives that fled earlier from a nearby village in Zawan came to check on us after they heard of the attack and asked us to relocate for our safety. Since they were just managing themselves and couldn’t house me and my children, they talked to their neighbor who had an extra room. Though the building was dilapidated, [the neighbor] was kind enough to accommodate us.
Has it been difficult to provide basic necessities for you and your children?
My children are still growing and their demand for food keeps increasing. Initially it was difficult to feed them since I didn’t have a job and only depended on what the community members give to us. Then SOS and community members provided us with food, clothing and other basic necessities.
How you were first introduced to SOS?
The community leader linked us to their local implementation partner who created the linkage to SOS and told us they were here to support us take better care of our children.
In what ways has SOS helped you better take care of your children?
First and foremost, I want to thank SOS for all they have done for me and my children. They got us out of a collapsing room and rented a place for us, supported us with food items, enrolled my eldest son in school and paid his fee. My kids enjoy educational support such as writing materials and clothes. I was also incorporated in to a village savings and loans association and a poultry farm projects was established for my group. Now we are getting additional [income] from the farm proceeds [and SOS] also organized various capacity-development training on effective parenting skills, business management, reproductive health and rights.
How has SOS helped your children?
My eldest son was enrolled back to school, and enjoys educational materials from the program; we have been supported with food to feed the children and with good shelter over their heads.
What’s the most significant impact that SOS has had on your family’s life?
Accommodation, access to free medical care, enrolled my children in school and involving me in an income generating activity