From Nigeria to Cameroon
23 years old|Village attacked|Health centres
23 year old, Abiguel was pregnant when Boko Haram attacked her village in north-east Nigeria.
“We thought it was doomsday. They killed so many people. We ran for our lives to the border with Cameroon and came here bare-footed, without anything.”
Abiguel and her husband found refuge with a family near the border. But the militants came to attack that village too. “They entered the house. My husband tried to flee, but they caught him. They killed him before my eyes. I could not even go and see his corpse. They would have shot me too.”
Abiguel had been married for only ten months when her husband was killed. She remained hidden for the night. In the early morning hours, she started running and did not stop or turn until she saw a car. That is how she made it to Minawao.
During her first month in the camp, she did not speak a word, and hardly ate anything. Other camp residents took care of her and she started showing signs of improvement. Soon after, she gave birth to her first child, Titus. “When I saw that it was a boy, I was happy again, for the first time. I thought that my husband was back,” Abiguel said, gently caressing the tiny feet of her son who is now six months old. “All that is left of my husband is this ID card. I keep showing it to Titus. It is the only picture he will ever see of his father.”
Abiguel has now found safety and basic humanitarian assistance in Cameroon. But she and many like her are nursing physical and mental wounds. Families have been separated, relatives have been lost: all recount tales of atrocities, fear for their lives, and difficult escapes. The traumatic experiences make adjusting to the already harsh refugee life even more difficult.
At the health centres at the refugee camp, International Medical Corps provides psychosocial support to refugees who have experienced traumatic events. The majority of beneficiaries are women. Some are children as young as five years old. “It is also a cultural challenge. Many patients do not open up easily,” said Gislaine Djoupe, an International Medical Corps nurse specialising in mental health. “We do not necessarily dig for trauma, and avoid to have the patient relive the emotions of the crisis. No one is obliged to talk.”
But not all victims of violence seek professional support and with more than 44,000 residents at the camp the demand for help outstrips what can be provided. “The community has a very important role to play,” said Gislaine Djoupe. “If the person feels safe, she will open up more easily.”
"Survivors need an ear to listen to them, and while psychosocial support mechanisms are in place to help them manage distress, it cannot work without the support of the community and the other refugees themselves. The solidarity of families and friends can help soothe the effects of their harrowing experiences.”
* Permission was obtained from Abigail to share her story publicly.