Displaced Nigerians recount Boko Haram nightmare

BAUCHI – Zara Buba, a mother of ten, has been running from one corner to another over the past year – and for no fault of her own.

"There was a series of Boko Haram attacks on Bama," Buba told The Anadolu Agency, referring to a town located some 60km from Maiduguri, provincial capital of Nigeria's northeastern Borno State.

"Whenever they launched an attack, we ran into the bush. By the time we came back, we could see many dead bodies," she said.

"One night, they [Boko Haram militants] came in huge numbers and set our village on fire," Buba recalled.

"I am traumatized because two of my sons are dead, while my two daughters and three grandchildren are missing," she said tearfully.

Buba said she and her husband had narrowly escaped death, along with only six of their children.

Rendered homeless by Boko Haram, they fled to Uba, another town in Borno State.

"When the militants attacked Uba, we fled to Bauchi," Buba said.

The family – or what's left of it – has now taken refuge in the Baram Gada community in northern Bauchi State.

"We ran from one town to another for more than a year before we finally settled in Bauchi," Buba told AA.

"We have been here since last year; life has been very difficult for us," she lamented.

The hapless family prays that peace will one day be restored in insurgency-hit Nigeria.

"I would like to go back to my village if peace returns because we have no means of livelihood here," Buba said. "I would like to go back and look for my children."

For the last five years, Nigeria has battled a fierce Boko Haram insurgency that has ravaged the country's volatile northeast and claimed thousands of lives.

The year 2014 has proved to be the insurgency's bloodiest yet, with increasingly frequent attacks, higher death tolls and a deluge of displaced persons.

In recent months, Boko Haram has graduated from simple hit-and-run tactics to capturing entire towns in Nigeria's Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states, where it has declared a self-styled "Islamic caliphate."

The violence displaced well over 1.5 million people in 2014, according to a recent report by the Borno State government.

-Nightmare-

Kauna Garba, an internally-displace person (IDP) from Adamawa, still vividly remembers the night when Boko Haram attacked her community.

"We were sleeping when we started hearing gunshots," he told AA.

"My mother woke us up and said Boko Haram had invaded our community," Garba recalled.

"We all ran into the bush, and from there I escaped to Bauchi," he said.

"I don't know the whereabouts of my parents and four siblings," Garba lamented. "I pray to God to keep them alive so that we can be united again".

Mohamed Bulama, meanwhile, escaped – along with his younger brother – to Bauchi from Borno's Damboa local government area.

"Our town was burnt down last year," he told AA.

"We stayed in the bush for several months, where we planted some crops. But we had to run away when they attacked again," Bulama recalled.

"We have not communicated with our parents since we left; we don't know if they are dead or alive," he said.

He added: "The situation is untenable. Boko Haram kill our people every day."

-Hardship-

The informal leader of one group of IDPs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described their situation as "terrible."

"We face a lot of hardship because these people [IDPs] are already frustrated and traumatized as a result of the crises that forced them out of their homes," he told AA.

"Some women have given birth… without any medical attention, while many have died of hunger," he said.

"Though the government provides shelter for us and some relief material, we need more assistance to survive," he pleaded.

Zakari Musa, who fled with his family from Nigeria's Plateau State, agreed.

"We lost our land and other property due to the crisis, while many of our people were killed," he told AA.

"We have thousands of refugees from neighboring states in this place, where we all live together peacefully as one family," Musa asserted.

"We have been given shelter and other amenities by the government, but we lack health facilities. We have serious problems with our pregnant women," he explained.

"We appeal to the government to provide us with a good health center replete with modern equipment, drugs and medical personnel," said Musa.

Abubakar Umar, an official with the Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency, said the agency was doing its best to help struggling IDPs.

"We have over 1.2 million IDPs in the state that have been resettled in various communities," he told AA.

Umar said IDPs were being settled in 13 local government areas across Bauchi State.

"We don't want to create camps for them so the insurgents don't attack them again, so we're providing them with shelter and other basic amenities so they can settle down if they decide not to go back," he explained.

Umar added: "We're currently collaborating with the Red Cross, UNICEF, NGOs, and other international donors to provide relief materials."

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