NIGERIA – Boko Haram violence affecting children’s mental health in Borno

The Sun | Timothy Olanrewaju | Septembere 10, 2020

International medical volunteer organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said that the decades long Boko Haram insurgency in North-East Nigeria has inflicted mental trauma on many children in the region.

The MSF Maiduguri Field Office in a report based on the account of its Mental Health Activity Manager, Kyla Storry, said many children in Gwoza, a volatile town in Borno located along the border with Cameroon, now suffer mental health challenges fueled by Boko Haram violence, including the gruesome murder of parents, loved ones and destruction of houses.

‘People in Gwoza have a wide range of mental health needs. While some of these are typical of the pressures related to daily life anywhere in the world, many are directly and indirectly related to the recent insurgency and the ongoing conflict. Issues such as grief and loss, trauma, the stressors of living in a camp for displaced people, a lack of employment, constant safety concerns and food insecurity can affect the ability of people to cope and function, how,’ Kyla disclosed.

The account entitled “Children can draw assault rifles better than a football or animal”, released to newsmen in Maiduguri, chronicled how about 60, 000 people displaced from their homes in remote communities now live in crowded Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, with the pressure of daily needs amid incessant gun battle between Boko Haram and military forces.

‘Many of them displaced from their homes elsewhere by the conflict. Living conditions are difficult, there is little humanitarian aid, and frequent clashes take place between the military and armed groups. Many people in Gwoza have witnessed acts of violence,’ the MSF report said.

Kyla recalled that many children have witnessed the abduction of their family members while many have been uprooted from their homes and forced to flee.

‘Life in their community has changed dramatically, and parents and caregivers are highly stressed, which affects the well-being of children,’ he disclosed.

He said MSF’s medical team focus on helping the people in the area to learn ways to manage the issues in their life so as to live the best they can in the difficult circumstances they found themselves.

Gwoza, located some 157 kiloemtres southeast of Maiduguri, was captured by Boko Haram in August 2014 and declared a caliphate by the terrorists. Scores of civilians fled their homes to the rocky hills and bushes with many trapped there for months. They were beaten by rains, cold and sometimes attacked by wild animals, according to accounts by survivors. The military later liberated the area in 2015 though the insurgents have carried out more attacks in the area.