Changing Lives, Changing Perspective, Changing Me.
In November, I spent three weeks observing, experiencing and reaching some conclusions about the “real” situation in Nigeria and the critical needs that Voices4Nigeria is attempting to meet. It’s taken me a couple of months to process the juxtaposition of wealth, poverty, human suffering, cultural greed and government apathy of finding workable, sustainable solutions. Nigeria contains 25% of the entire population of the African continent. It is both the wealthiest and poorest country in Africa. Its population is a fairly equal split between Christians and Muslims – To a significant degree, what happens in Nigeria will determine the future of Africa….
First, I was able to visit four Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps without government security or escort. There were 2000 to 4000 people living in squalor in each camp. I was witness to the abysmal living conditions of the displaced victims of Boko Haram. (Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” and has pledged its allegiance to ISIS). Most Americans could not imagine surviving for a day in such deprivation. Unfortunately, a significant amount of both government and international aid never make it to the victims of terrorism living in the IDP camps.
Secondly, I was aware of the grossly misleading statistics offered by international aid agencies that visit Nigeria under government “escort.” For example, currently, the UN reports that there are 26 IDP camps in Nigeria. I discovered that there are 63 IDP camps just in Borno State alone (Northeastern Nigeria). The death toll from terrorism has remained ‘officially’ at 20,000 since 2014. However, just while I was in the country, there were a half dozen bombings by Boko Haram and numerous Fulani herdsmen and farmer “skirmishes” (media descriptions of attacks by the Islamic Herdsmen) resulting in numerous additional deaths. Terrorism is a daily occurrence in Nigeria. The radical Islamic agenda is steadily being implemented through blood, bombings, and carnage. I interviewed a former reporter who told me that to report the truth in Nigeria would be one’s death warrant. All national media is highly controlled by the government.
Thirdly, moderate Muslims and Christians compose the IDP camp population. Most of the IDP’s have lost family and friends to terrorism. Most witnessed brutal slayings and many survived with serious personal injury. Yet, they were thankful for their lives. It was remarkable to see, hear and witness their gratitude for the aid V4N has sent and their appreciation for Gabasawa’s leadership in giving them help and hope.
Finally, it is obvious that independent, non-governmental aid is critical to the survival and thriving of the Displaced in Nigeria. Food is a HUGE need – malnourishment and even starvation are rampant in the IDP camps. Voices4Nigeria decided to immediately address this area of urgent need. Currently, it is estimated that 14.8 million to 26 million people are in desperate need of food due to terrorism (destruction of farms, land, homes, livelihood, injuries from attacks), threatening weather (floods, monsoons) have made the “Bread Belt” of Nigeria a wasteland. Voices4Nigeria sent $20,000 for food to our Nigerian partner in January. We will provide accountability and transparency for how donors’ generosity is being translated into life-giving sustenance for the oppressed and “forgotten.”
Several years ago, I expressed a lingering sense of guilt about the abundance and freedom we, in America, enjoy. My friend wisely responded, "God made you an American. He made me a Nigerian. But, He’s called us both to be faithful." I returned to the United States with a renewed sense of purpose and a heart overflowing with thanksgiving for how blessed we truly are!