A 60-year old woman in the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camp in Maiduguri has cried out that the food allocation they receive from government on monthly basis is not enough to sustain them beyond two days.
Rebecca Filigus, mother of nine who fled Gwoza in 2014 told our correspondent that displaced persons relied on hand-outs from the church and Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, as food supply from the government was too small.
“Two families share a plate of ground maize and in addition a family gets a plate of raw rice, a cup of beans and a soup spoonful of oil. This is the food the government expects to last us for a month,” Filigus said as others who surrounded her nodded in agreement.
She said that sometimes the church which donated the space to accommodate the IDPs gave them food, adding that they also got assistance from NGOs.
Filigus, however, said that because the donations from the church and NGOs were not frequent or enough, most of them had to find other means of survival.
Filigus whose 12 children have survived the Boko Haram insurgency is living with only four of them and her husband who is a carpenter. She explained that the others are either married or living on their own.
She said they were allowed to go out of the camp to eke out a living but like other IDPs in Maiduguri, there was nothing they could do to earn money.
“We don’t have money to feed, let alone farm. You need money to pay for the farmland, transportation to go to the farm and money to pay labourers. We can’t afford all these,” she said.
To feed her family, Filigus started a business she used to do in Gwoza before the Boko Harm crisis as her husband could not find carpentry work in Maiduguri. She started selling fried beans balls, akara, and buns, though she said that starting the business without money was difficult.
She explained that “I decided to collect the items I need – beans, flour and vegetable oil – on credit and pay after selling the beans balls and buns. I usually collect 10 plates of beans. A plate of good beans costs N600 while the insect-infested one costs N500. I collect 15 litres of vegetable oil at N7,000 and a plate of flour for N600.”
Filigus said that she incurred a debt of N15,000 as the business was not thriving. She sold the akara and buns within the camp and most of her customers who were mainly IDPs did not have money to make any purchase.
According to her, the business is not profitable but she is not thinking of quitting as her family still depends on her.
She sold the akara for N10 but there were days she could not sell all that she produced and had to sell the leftover at giveaway prices to the IDPS.
“Sometimes if I’m lucky, I make N1,500 in a day while sometimes I make N700. This is not much but I don’t have a choice. I have to make sure that the people who give me the items on credit get their money,” she said.
Meanwhile, Filigus was eager to return to Gwoza if it becomes safe for civilians.
She said: “Why wouldn’t I go back? I am not happy being here. I want to be able to farm and live a normal life like before instead of struggling to look for what to eat and not knowing where the next meal comes from.”