Free? Freed? Freedom?
These words mean different things to different people. Words that cost lives daily. Words that could mean anything from the absence of violence to the absence of drinkable water. It could mean anything from not dying today to having a hot meal. But the problem still remains the same — Lack of freedom. Imagine waking up every single day with the fear of the unknown in an environment filled with violence. Thinking of the next 24 hours and wondering if it might be your last day on earth. Constantly reminded of the new life that was handed to you by terrorists. Terrorists who care more about pushing an unknown agenda than the thousands of lives they have claimed in their insurgency.
2017 draws to an end and with thanksgiving in our hearts; we look forward to starting a new year with new goals. We are ready to put all the ‘lows’ of the year behind us and forge ahead with renewed strength. But there are people who do not have the option of having new goals or better yet, choice of options. People who have lost the meaning of true freedom. People that have had their lives turned upside down with no solution imminent. These are people who have had their lives disrupted by terror in Northeast Nigeria.
Over 20,000 Nigerians have lost their lives to Boko Haram’s terror within the last nine years. 2 million people have been displaced by the insurgency with nowhere to live and no access to basic human needs. Families have been permanently displaced and sources of livelihoods destroyed. Some of these people are currently living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps across the Northeast region of Nigeria unsure of what comes next. The United Nations has estimated that 7,000 women have been victims of sexual violence by members of the Boko Haram sect. Even in these camps, there have been reports of rape and sexual exploitation by security forces assigned by the Nigerian government. Women continue to be victims of sexual violence even in the refugee camps provided and girls grow up without access to basic feminine hygiene products.
Boys and girls facing a life with no positive outcome premised on the lack of education or vocational training to get them through the loss. IDP camps in Nigeria are currently facing a cholera outbreak even in this festive period with Boko Haram still pillaging towns and cities around and within the Northeast part of Nigeria.
Where does this leave the rest of us? We are becoming desensitized to news of this insurgency. The news is not more than just a regular occurrence now. Daily headlines of deaths and killings invoke nothing but a feeling of numbness after a minute of reflection. Does life remain normal because we do not know the people suffering personally?
What happens now that international systems have moved on to other problems in other countries and the Nigerian government has shifted her attention to other issues. What happens to the reality of thousands of Nigerians stuck and alone in these camps? The length of time this madness has gone on for is not a reason to quit trying. It is a reason to keep trying and helping.
The problem still persists. No amount of wishing away the problem will help them on the other side of the coin. There are people ending 2017 without a knowledge of what it means to be truly free. To have choices and be thankful. To be living a life they can be happy for. There are people facing each day without knowing what comes tomorrow. People trapped in the miserable routine that provides no solution to their problems.
I write this piece not to leave you feeling helpless in the face human suffering, but to shed light on the issue and also to talk about an initiative that is making an effort to reach out to the people affected — The BeFREE campaign, an initiative led by students at Princeton University, is a welcomed initiative seeking to help victims of Boko Haram’s Violence. The campaign aims to raise funds for individuals affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, and also create awareness of the devastating impact of Boko Haram’s violence on our society.
The BeFREE campaign is partnering with the Foundation For Refugee Economic Empowerment (FREE) who have over the last three years devoted their resources to restoring hope to people in refugee camps affected by insurgency particularly in Abuja, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe state. The Foundation For Refugee Economic Empowerment works hard to supply clean water to refugee camps, deliver medical supplies to health clinics and offer adult women literacy and vocational programs. All donations made to the BeFREE campaign will be used to support the incredible work done by FREE in ensuring a better standard of living.
This is no longer an issue for the Nigerian government or international organisations. This is now a problem for US. A problem that challenges each of us to search inward for the strength to join forces. A problem that calls on the attention of every person that is free today.
We need to stand up as humans and do the little we can to help those that hunger for freedom. In this season of giving, the Be FREE campaign is an opportunity to help in the face of what’s possibly one of the world’s most neglected crises, and I invite you to take action today.
Click here to make a donation.