A Refuge From Boko Haram

An abandoned school becomes a new home for 7,000 fleeing the horrible violence

Maiduguri, Government College School in Borno state was one of the last to close its doors. After a string of attacks by militants from the Boko Haram terrorist group on schools and barracks across Nigeria’s north eastern provinces, the government announced the closure of all schools in Borno.

Teachers hoped that Maiduguri School might be allowed to stay open, but when more than 200 girls were kidnapped from nearby Chibook School, the students were sent home for their own safety.

Yet the buildings did not remain empty for long. Today the school is home to more than 7,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), including more than 1,950 children, seeking refugee from the threat of Boko Haram. Many of these IDPs arrived here with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and life has since turned into a daily rough struggle for survival. Mohamed, arrived in September 2015 saw his home burnt to the ground during a Boko Haram attack. “I am just managing life” he says. Mohamed has nowhere to return to as “my village is not yet free from the insurgents”.

Originally built to host 1,800 boarding students, the school sanitation system including toilets soon collapsed under the pressure of the sheer numbers of IDPs now seeking shelter in the college’s fading buildings.

International Medical Corps identified the risk to the health of these families from the poor sanitary conditions. Cholera is a constant threat in this part of Nigeria and has frequent outbreaks. There were 4,500 cases and 70 deaths from Cholera in a single month last year in Maiduguri.

With the support from the European Union’s humanitarian budget, International Medical Corps has renovated the school’s broken latrines, installed 30 new showers, handwashing stations and an underground water reservoir to supply clean water. International Medical Corps’ team of sanitation and hygiene experts also ran training sessions to educate families on simple actions that can keep their families safe from water related illnesses such as Cholera.

Abubakar Ibrahim Joji, Headmaster of Maiduguri, Government College School, thanked International Medical Corps for “accomplishing a noble task that will benefit not only the IDPs, but also the students upon their return to their studies”.

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