By Edoamaowo Udeme
When Pat Okpo 18, left her village in Uyo in Akwa Ibom State to assist her aunt who lived with her family in Yobe State the northern part of Nigeria, she was full of hopes and aspirations. Having lost her parents at a tender age, leaving her hometown where she was doing menial jobs to survive was a welcome relief albeit an uncertain future.
With little or no education, Pat set sail for greener pastures and Yobe seemed to beckon on her with open arms. Her arrival in 2011 was with mixed feelings. Since she had never left her hometown before, a whole new world awaited her, language barrier and what may be termed as “culture shock” which was the mood of dressing and food, looked so strange but she was determined to make the best out of it.
Her job was to help her aunt out with sales in her food store and within a few months, she was able to manage a passive communication in English and Hausa languages and thus enhance her selling skills.
Then the unexpected happened, she fell pregnant. Her aunt and husband threw her out and she moved in with the man who got her pregnant, hardly had she settled in, when the man abandoned her and fled.
Life became unbearable as she was feeding from hand to mouth, “I will never forget October 29 2013 when Boko Haram hit her area that was close to the military base in Yobe leaving scores dead and wounded, I was not directly affected but I ran for my life when I saw others running” Pat noted.
Lucky that she was not among the dead or wounded she scrambles for safety, needless to say food was as far away as heaven to her. We were gathered in a primary school before being taken to camps. “In IDP camp, our food ration was never enough and the kind of food served was not the type I liked but I had to get by, I needed to survive but it was hard” Said Pat.
In her 2nd trimester, Pat could hardly feed, she found herself in Abarri IDP and was even raped with her protruding pregnancy, by those who claim to protect them. ´I was raped she sobbed, “When people came to ask us if we had been molested, we lied because if we told them the truth, they will deal with us as soon as the visitors left”. Having stayed for three months there, she fled again and managed to return home to Akwa Ibom.
Severely malnourished, she managed to get by until delivery, sadly, Godspower her son was more malnourished than her, he is severely acutely malnourished, it became so bad that 5 years after, Godspower is yet to take his first step. He must be lifted up to do everything, He can’t walk or talk. He just stares.
According to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, the Boko Haram insurgency has caused severe acute malnutrition that has affected over 900,000 children in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states of the country and Godspower happens to be one of them.
A nutrition expert for UNICEF, Bamidele Omotola, noted that Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states in the region has become an emergency in child malnutrition and calls for a need to invest in child malnutrition to save lives.
“Over 25 million under-five children suffered wasting and over 10 million stunting across the country and globally, malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all child deaths which is more than three million children each year”.said Omotola.
Despite UNICEFs official report which stressed that in 2017 it spent over $10 million in Nigeria to treat acute malnutrition and other diseases; continuous insurgence will still increase the already alarming number of malnutrition in the North- East as insurgence appears to be unending.
The likes of Godspower will continue to be on the increase if insurgence is not stopped, sadly most of them don’t survive it while some like Godspower who survive it have become physically challenged.