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Nigeria: Renewed Hope – The Story of Faraa

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Faraa  fled her community in the wake of an attack by non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria six years ago. Armed men burned down several houses that night, including hers, and took the lives of men, women and children.

Fleeing a trail of devastation in her home in Michika, she arrived in a host community in Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, in search of safety and a new home for herself and her family.

In Yola, Faraa met one of the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) workers in October 2015. Following her experiences during conflict in the years prior, she showed signs of distress and indicators of depression.

The IOM team provided psychosocial support and referred her to a mental health facility in Yola where she was treated for severe depression. Since then, Faraa has been receiving medication as well as psychoeducation, which ensures that she and her family are aware of the conditions and symptoms of the disorder and acknowledge the importance of taking her medication.

In 2017, as her condition began to improve, she was selected by IOM to receive integrated small-scale livelihood support including a machine to make pasta and raw materials to complement her recovery process.

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Now in its tenth year, the ongoing conflict between non-state armed groups and Nigerian armed forces continues to uproot the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. Since 2019, a spike in violence and military counter-operations have displaced some 136,000 people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. In Adamawa alone, over 190,534 individuals like Faraa are currently displaced from their homes.

“The crisis in the Lake Chad Region is far from over,” said Vincent Houver, IOM Deputy Director for Operations and Emergencies during a visit to Nigeria in July 2019. “The humanitarian community cannot spare any effort at this time.”

An Eye for Business

With the proceeds from her business, Faraa can provide for her four children, three of whom are enrolled in a nearby private nursery and primary school.

“I did not know how to make pasta before, but I learned in one day,” she said to IOM staff on a recent home visit to assess her progress.

Standing in front of a brick structure, she explains that she has saved enough money to buy a piece of land where she is now building a house for her family.

Faraa is now venturing into other business opportunities. Just recently, she started selling pasta and chin-chin, a fried snack popular in West Africa, at a private primary school within the community.

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IOM’s MHPSS activities in Nigeria were prompted by the aftermath of the Chibok girls’ abduction in 2014. Today, mobile teams operate safe spaces in 12 locations in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. Eighteen teams composed of 114 members comprise educators, health care workers, counselors, social workers, community resource persons and animators. They offer artistic workshops and other recreational activities for children and youth, informal education for adults, counseling, support groups and small-scale conflict resolution. By integrating psychosocial support into livelihood activities, IOM promotes positive coping mechanisms and resilience among the displaced population.

Today, Faraa feels safe and welcome in the town she escaped to six years ago. Much of her past is a blur, but as she ponders on her future, she seems calm and optimistic.

“I never thought I would be as happy as I am now,” she says, as she hands out samples of fresh chin-chin. Her customers grab a piece and quickly ask for another. Faraa chuckles, her eyes beaming with pride.

Name has been changed to protect the identity of the beneficiary.

IOM’s MHPSS activities in northeast Nigeria are funded by SIDA, USAID, the Government of Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Kano govt. shut down O’Pay office, gives reason

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The Kano state government has ordered the police to shut down a branch of Opay office in the state. Opay is an online payment outlet for commercial tricycle operators.

The outlet, as gathered  was closed down during a raid carried out by the Kano state police command over alleged non-compliance with the government rules and directives.

The armed security personnel stormed the state office at Lodge road in Kano at about 11:00am on Thursday.

The police officers also ordered all the staff and scores of commercial tricycle operators known as Adaidaita Sahu to immediately vacate the premises, threatening anyone who failed to comply with the order risked arrest.

Confirming the development, the spokesman of the Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, explained that the command received an order from Kano state government to close the office.

Haruna added that the Opay company didn’t comply with some rules set for it by the state government in order to operate

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29 million babies born into conflict in 2018 – UNICEF

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More than 29 million babies were born into conflict-affected areas in 2018, UNICEF said today.

Armed violence across countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen meant that, throughout last year, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.

“Every parent should be able to cherish their baby’s first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “In countries around the world, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies. Millions of families lack access to nutritious food, safe water, sanitation, or a secure and healthy environment to grow and bond. Along with the immediate, obvious dangers, the long-term impacts of such a start in life are potentially catastrophic.”

When young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief causing ‘toxic stress’. Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behaviour, and physical and mental health.

Examples of the impact of conflict on babies and young children – given by UNICEF staff working in conflict zones – include:

  • “Some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don’t sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it’s not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper. Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families,” UNICEF worker in Yemen.
  • “My son, five-year-old Heraab, finds himself in a community where he is constantly exposed to the sounds of explosions, smell of smoke, accompanied by the regular shrieking of sirens, be it police or ambulance, or the persistent honking of cars and motorbikes rushing the injured to hospital.  He shudders and wakes up at night if a truck passes by with speed, sometimes shaking the windows of our house, thinking it must be another attack,” UNICEF worker in Afghanistan.
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  • “Some of the children are scared and look very anxious, others are very aggressive. They are frightened of visitors and flee when they see visiting vehicles coming. The cars remind them of fighting, war weaponry they need to flee from,” UNICEF worker in Somalia.

 

  • “I’ve travelled to the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan to help provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been forced to flee their villages because of violence. With no basic services, no health facilities, poor sanitation, no food, and deep-set trauma, families struggle to survive. I see despair in the eyes of the children I meet. The conflict has taken away their childhood,” UNICEF worker in South Sudan.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which, among other things, governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict. Yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. Hospitals, health centres and child friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.

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Providing safe spaces for families and their young children living through conflict – where children can use play and early learning as outlets for some of the trauma they have experienced; and providing psychosocial support to children – and their families – are critical parts of UNICEF’s humanitarian response.

When caregivers are given the support they need to cope with and process trauma, they have the best possible chance of providing their young children with the nurturing care needed for healthy brain development – acting as a ‘buffer’ from the chaos around them.

“Parents who interact with their babies can help shield them from the negative neurological effects of conflict. Yet, in times of conflict, parents are frequently overwhelmed,” said Fore. “Ultimately what these families need is peace, but until then they desperately need more support to help them and their children cope with the devastation they face – 29 million new lives and futures depend on it.”

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Wanted Rwandan warlord killed by DR Congo troops

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A Rwandan Hutu rebel leader wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crime charges has been shot dead by the Congolese army, DRC military spokesperson said on Wednesday in what Kigali described as “good news for peace”.

Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was “definitively neutralised” in DRC’s North Kivu province on Tuesday night, General Leon-Richard Kasonga said.

Mudacumura, wanted for charges including rape, torture, and pillage, was killed about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital of the province Goma.

Neighbouring Rwanda welcomed the news, saying it proved DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitment to fighting “negative forces”.

“The death of Sylvestre Mudacumura is good news for peace and security in the region,” Rwandan state minister for regional affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.

“With his genocide group, the FDLR, he was destabilising DRC, killing Congolese and Rwandans.”

The FDLR was created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

According to the United Nations, the force numbers between 500 and 600 active fighters.

They are scattered across the mineral-rich eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in southern Katanga, and the group is regularly accused of committing atrocities against civilians in the zones it controls.

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“His death confirms the commitment of President Felix Tshisekedi in fighting negative forces and will open a new era of good and peaceful cooperation between DRC and countries in the region,” Nduhungirehe said.

The FDLR, opposed to the current Rwandan government, has not launched any large-scale offensive in Rwanda since 2001.

– Warning to other warlords –
Eastern DRC has been torn for more than two decades by armed conflicts fed by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of a wealth of mineral resources and regional rivalries.

Mudacumura’s death “is a strong signal for other rebels,” said General Richard Kasonga, spokesman of the Congolese army, calling it a “big step” in the fight against insecurity and terrorism.

He called on “all armed groups to lay down their arms, or face the same fate as Mudacumura.”

During a visit to the region early this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on the rebels to disarm.

US researcher Jason Stearn said the death was “an extremely important event”, telling AFP that the FDLR is “one of the biggest armed groups in the region, even if they have diminished in capacity.”

However, Stearn, of New York University’s Congo Research Group, held out little hope for peace in a region where around 130 armed groups remain active.

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“We have seen a lot of commanders die without the groups necessarily disappearing or diminishing in force,” he said.

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