Silent Starvation, the Life Free from Boko Haram

    Boko Haram has seized international headlines as being a Jihadist militant movement intent on controlling the states around the Gulf of Guinea, primarily Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. However, in the wake of their fighting, millions of civilians remain displaced and suffer a silent struggle—one more pervasive than the thousands of armed deaths. Thousands of Nigerian citizens who relocated to army camps and non-government organization sites are in dire need of resources and nutrition.

     The dire state of the Nigerian displacement camps is compounded by the expulsion of refugees who crossed into Cameroon villages for safety. Eviction practices have been implemented by multiple governments in the Guinea area in order to avoid the aid services that an influx of refugees demands. However, these very refugees are then relocated to more dangerous parts of Nigeria rife with insurgents.  

     In these places, there is no issue direr than malnutrition, which the UN estimates has affected nearly seven million people in the area. However, the issue has been deemed systemic by the Nigerian government; displaced farmers have been unable to plant crops for the past several years and trade routes are plagued with militants. The Nigerian administration has reified the issue through sequestering aid funds into private pockets.

     In the wake of Boko Haram’s presence, former prisoners are also in acute need of mental health services. Despite this, the few hospitals that remain open and staffed in Nigerian cities often tradeoff malnutrition and mental health. Psychologists are diverting to ‘life-threatening’ issues, and mental health gets placed on the backburner. Often, though, mental trauma and starvation come hand in hand; many young adults and children who have been abducted are publicly beheaded and killed, but those that are released return to a bleak state, with scarce food rations. These never see the psychiatrists or gain the psychological support that is so desperately needed.

     Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to the deep-rooted problems at hand. As long as Islamic jihadists continue to control the area, there will be a widespread silencing of the true extent to which civilians suffer. And in the meantime, as non-government organizations struggle to muster enough resources and aid services for the millions of displaced and afflicted, the governments in power continue to suffer rampant corruption that draws away vital aid money. In this mired state of oppression, silent starvation, and with no way out, incremental steps such as increasing awareness and funds directed towards the organizations fighting for change in those areas is a first step in the process towards a peaceful Gulf of Guinea.