Living in Constant Fear - Mental Health Camp in Waru IDP

By Zunzika Okpo

Fatima* is 19. She lives in Waru IDP community. Even though she is far from Borno State and far from the insurgency, she lives in constant fear. Any small noise scares her to the point that her heart starts to palpitate and often she feels as though she is about to pass out. She has been in the IDP camp for over 3 years now and she has small children. Sleep? She has not gotten a good night’s sleep in years. She may sleep for two or four hours at the most. Her children, innocent as they are, sleep through the night. However, she noted that sometimes she is happy when they awake at night because that gives her some comfort. 

Four years ago, Fati, as she was fondly called, lived in a big house with both her parents and her siblings. They were a happy family and did not want for anything. They had three score meals plus extra, clothes on their backs and a more than decent roof over their heads. They ate and prayed together. The girls helped their mother in the kitchen while the boys learned about the farming with their father. Their lives were relatively peaceful even though they were aware of the insurgency in their state. Every so often they would hear gunshots but little did they know that it would get to them. One day, their father did not return home. On that same day, Boko Haram insurgents raided their compound. Fati, her sisters and brothers made a run for it. Their mother was behind them, trying to beg for her life when she was beheaded right in front of her children. The children made a run for it, in different directions. The older ones tried to carry the smaller ones but some were shot in the process. While she was running, Fati jumped over someone she recognised. It was her father; dead and left there for people to see. With tears and fear, she kept on running. She ran until she found others who had been displaced and managed to escape from their villages. She did not see any of her brothers or sisters. 

For a long time she could hardly keep food down. She did not even want to eat. She had witnessed her mother die in front of her. She had seen her dead father. She had no idea where her other family members were. For all she knew, she was alone in the world. Often, she wondered why she had been spared, if she would be better off dead. 

Once she got to Abuja, she found someone who wanted to marry her. She jumped at the idea because she had no one else. Her husband left for Lagos after their third child was born. She feels alone again, save for her children. Her fear is always with her. When she came for the Mental Health Camp held on September 11th 2017, she felt a sense of progress for once. She wants to get better. She wants to forget what happened to her. She is not alone in this anymore. This was the sentiment expressed at the virgin Mental Health Camp held in Waru IDP community. Most of the occupants there have seen so much trauma that they are afraid to sleep. With the BasicNeeds team going in there, support groups will be formed, livelihoods will be given, psychotherapy will be given and they can begin to heal.

As always, do come back to the blog for more updates on our work with IDPs both in Abuja as well as in Borno State.