Fighting COVID-19 Together

Hajara Bukar, 35, lives in NYSC Camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in north-east Nigeria. One of the oldest formal camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in Maiduguri, NYSC Camp used to be an orientation center for Nigerian students undertaking their national youth service before the north-east fell into a decade-long armed conflict that has left over 2.1 million people displaced.

Seven years ago, Hajara fled her home in neighboring Konduga when her village was attacked by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) commonly known as Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Hajara fled her village with her children seven year ago when non-state armed groups attacked the town
Hajara fled her village with her children seven years ago due to an attack by non-state armed groups. Photo: Mshelia Yakubu/IOM 2021

That night Hajara was awoken by the sound of gunfire. She and her five children trekked barefoot for some 35 kilometers to the safety of the Borno capital. “Some of us were not even wearing clothes because Boko Haram came at midnight, we thought it was the military.” Her husband, along with 69 others, died in the attack.

Hajara is one of 2,222 IDPs who over the years have found safety and access to basic services in NYSC Camp, but like her peers, she was not prepared for a global pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives in Nigeria including in Borno.

She has been trained as one of 50 CCCM committee and WASH hygiene promotion volunteers who helped share key messages on COVID-19 prevention in her community at the height of the second wave of the pandemic in Nigeria.

A group of IDP women discuss COVID-19 prevention measures at NYSC camp. Photo: Mshelia Yakubu/IOM 2021
A group of IDP women discuss COVID-19 prevention measures at NYSC camp. Photo: Mshelia Yakubu/IOM 2021

“To avoid large crowds, we went house to house to conduct our sensitization, some of our key messages included the importance of handwashing using soap, and how to wash children’s hands especially after using the latrines,” she says proudly.

“We told people about the importance of reporting symptoms and that they should adhere to the protocols, for example, sneezing into a napkin or on the elbow… If they use a napkin, we tell them they should throw it in a dustbin after use because children could otherwise pick it up and play with it.”

Hajara demonstrates proper coughing techniques during a training session for community volunteers at NYSC camp. Photo: Mshelia Yakubu 2021
Hajara demonstrate proper coughing techniques during a community volunteer session at NYSC camp. Photo: Mshelia Yakubu/IOM 2021

After the training, Hajara and the rest of the volunteers received a stipend for her work. With this additional support, she plans to see her children through school. “I will use the money to pay for school fees, and materials for knitting,” she says pointing at a ‘hula’ a traditional cap worn mostly in northern Nigeria, which she sells as an additional source of income.  

With support from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), IOM conducted sensitization and community-based awareness campaigns in IDPs on the risks and prevention measures against COVID-19 as well as fire outbreaks.

The nine-month project in Nigeria has been implemented as part of IOM’s Global 2020 project “Multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to prevent and respond to COVID-19” under the CERF Rapid Response Window, from April 2020 to January 2021.