The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said Nigerians returning to their villages in north eastern Nigeria revealed the extent of the humanitarian crisis in the region.Parts of the area are accessible by humanitarian organizations for the first time in two years. The Nigerian army recently retook former Boko Haram strongholds.
That is the script that applies to 39-year-old Mohamed Ibrahim, a market trader who once ran a thriving business. But, Mohamed was forced to abandon it all when Boko Haram overran his town two years ago.
“I escaped with my family to the mountains outside my village” he says. He hid up there for 9 months and suffered a lot until the military recaptured the town and now they have come back.
UNHCR says the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram has displaced over 1.8 million Nigerians. At this local clinic, health officials say malnutrition is rampant.
UNHCR also says returnees are in urgent need of food, shelter and medical assistance, as well as support to rebuild.
Mohamed is struggling to keep his business afloat. Customers lack the funds to buy his merchandise.
Farmers are the majority in that part of the country and for now, they can’t grow crops because Boko Haram are on the outskirts, he says.
The ability to come out of hiding and return to their villages has given hope to many, including Mohamed. Still, it will take time to return these broken lives to what they once were.