By: Michael Oche Andrew
World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on August 19 to pay tribute to aid workers, especially those at the frontline who risk their lives in humanitarian service.
It is also a day to remember those that have lost their lives trying to save the lives of others.
Northeastern Nigeria has faced one of the most acute humanitarian crisis in the world. The crisis which started in 2009 was largely triggered by persistent economic hardship, and rising inequalities.
More than 20,000 civilians have been killed and over 1 million children have been forced to flee from their homes. The education system has suffered some of the biggest loses with over 600 teachers reported to have been killed, nearly 1,200 schools damaged or destroyed and at least 1,500 schools forced to close.
There has been targeted abduction of boys and girls and a lot more children displaced and in need of child protection intervention. (Turning Education Around: Responding to the crisis in Borno State , Northeaster Nigeria, December 2017by Save the Children, Nigeria)
Save the Children, in line with the vision of our founder, Eglantyne Jebb, was one of the first responders to the crisis to ensure that lifesaving interventions were provided to families, especially children who were being affected by the insurgency.
Today, we pause to pay tribute to our Real Life Heroes in line with this year’s WHD theme. Till date, Save the Children Nigeria has reached about 989,271 people, of whom 716,957 are children, with various forms of humanitarian assistance since the start of our intervention in Northeast Nigeria.
We currently respond to the crisis in northeast Nigeria working in two of the states in the region, Yobe and Borno states with our largest response in eight Local Governments of Borno State namely MMC, Jere, Kaga, Konduga, Mafa and Magumeri, Danboa and Biu. We also support the Yobe state government through our European Union (EU) funded Resilience Project on Early Recovery from Conflict and Peace Building in the state.
Save the Children’s response includes; provision of food assistance to more than 300,000 people on a regular basis, treatment of malnourished children through our outpatient therapeutics (OTP) and Stabilization Centre, rehabilitation of schools and enrollment of children back to school, WASH services in different communities, and provision of psychosocial support and safe spaces for children in IDP camps and host communities. We also support Cameroonian Refugees in Cross River and Benue states. We do all this with the help of our humanitarian workers to make sure every last child is reached and no child is left behind.
The personal sacrifices our aid workers make to get the job done is one that always leaves us inspired. Asking a member of our Humanitarian response team what inspires her, she said: “I have a passion to work with people in need. As a woman and as a mother, when I see children dying or people in conflict, I have this feeling that I should be there, that I have something to offer to them,” Esther Zira, WASH Officer, Save the Children Maiduguri field office.
World Humanitarian Day is extra special this year as we all fight against the deadly COVID-19which put humanitarian aid workers at more risk. However, not even the pandemic could deter these real life heroes from stepping up to help raise awareness on preventing the spread of the virus and putting risk mitigation measures in place to protect children and other individuals in different communities including hard to reach ones. In addition, the recent killings of aid workers in northeast Nigeria is a major issue that poses a threat to every aid worker in the region. However, in response to how some of them carry on despite this insecurity in the region, Mark Umoru, Acting Operations Manager at Save the Children in Borno state said:
“It has been challenging because those that were killed are colleagues of ours but the morale of the humanitarian aid workers has not been dampened by these killings. If anything, it has encouraged us to do more to ensure that we reach and support the most vulnerable who require humanitarian assistance.”
As we commemorate World Humanitarian Day, Save the Children Nigeria celebrates our Over 170 staff and more than 400 volunteers who work tirelessly to support our humanitarian efforts around Nigeria through food assistance, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, education and child protection programmes including Child Friendly Spaces.
Happy World Humanitarian Day, heroes!
Michael Oche Andrew is Community Mobilization & Advocacy Officer, Save the Children, Yobe State