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Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Cameroon
Cameroon is in trouble. The country is economically plagued by a devastatingly high poverty rate, struggling education and health care systems, paralyzing corruption and various internal rifts that threaten national security and any prospects of a vibrant tourism industry.  Nevertheless, some bright spots remain that point towards a more prosperous future. With an official goal in place to be labeled as an “emerging market” by 2035, many questions about Cameroon’s precarious future linger. The top 10 facts about living conditions in Cameroon presented below will try to give a better picture of the situation in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Cameroon

  1. A picture of the living conditions in Cameroon is not complete without the all-important measures of GDP and GDP per capita. With the 15th largest economy in Africa, Cameroon’s total nominal GDP of $38 billion places it at 98th place globally. When taking heed of the population, the nation’s GDP per capita of $1,400 places it near the bottom of the pack globally, at 152nd place, and 26th out of 55 countries in Africa.
  2. Despite the sobering figures above, Cameroon’s economy has made great strides towards becoming a prosperous emerging market in recent years. In the period from 2004 to 2008, while the countries reserves quadrupled to $3 billion, the public debt was reduced from over 60 percent of GDP to around 10 percent. Furthermore, over the last decade, Cameroon’s GDP per capita grew at a steady 4 percent annually, well above the global average of 2.6 percent. In addition, Cameroon’s unemployment rate currently rests at a healthy 4.24 percent.
  3. Nonetheless, Cameroon still has a ways to go, as 48 percent of the population continues to live under the poverty line. With this in mind, it is important to note that poverty remains a largely rural phenomenon in the country. Despite only accounting for roughly 45 percent of the country’s total population of 24 million, nearly 55 percent of those living in poverty dwell in rural areas where access to steady-paying jobs and adequate infrastructure is sparse.
  4. With a relatively low score of 0.56, placing the country 151st out of 189 total countries measured, Cameroon currently ranks last in the “Medium Human Development” category of the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Established to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone, a country’s HDI takes into account various measures of health, education and per capita wealth.
  5. As of 2010, the last year on file, the adult literacy rate in Cameroon was estimated at 71.3 percent, well below the world average of 84.6 percent at the time. On a more positive note, Cameroon boasts one of the highest school attendance rates in Africa, with most children having access to relatively inexpensive, state-run schools. In 2013, the enrollment rate for primary schools was 93.5 percent. It is important to note that boys continue to attend school at a significantly higher rate than girls as a result of entrenched cultural norms.
  6. Cameroon is plagued by crippling corruption on an epic scale. The Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys, places Cameroon 152nd overall out of 180 countries measured. The rippling economic ramifications of prolific corruption at a governmental level can be devastating, with research highlighting a direct correlation between a higher CPI score and positive long-term economic growth. So much so, in fact, that a country can expect GDP growth in the range of 1.7 percent for every “unit increase” in a country’s CPI score.
  7. One of the biggest factors limiting Cameroon’s education attendance rate is not only the accessibility of schools but also the prevalence of child labor. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 56 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working, while 53 percent of children aged between 7 and 14 were forced to balance both work and school.
  8. Cameroon’s health care system is sparse and insufficient, significantly affecting the overall quality of life in the country. This is best represented in the country’s markedly low life expectancy and high infant mortality rate. Cameroon’s life expectancy rests at just 57 years for males and 59 years for females. The infant mortality rate is extremely high, at 84 deaths per 1,000 births. Cameroon’s substandard health care system can be rooted back to the government’s minimal funding. Currently, health care expenditures are equal to just 4.1 percent of the country’s GDP.
  9. Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon as its authoritarian President since 1982. Over these 37 years, he has quelled democratic hopes and limited any and all civic and civil liberties. Having this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Cameroon was labeled as “not free” by Freedom House. With an overall score of 22 out of 100 (100 being entirely free), Cameroon ranks 174th out of 210 countries measured.
  10. Bordering Nigeria and Chad, Boko Haram continues to pose a threat to Cameroon, especially in the country’s far north. This represents a huge issue for the safety of the country’s citizens.

Despite being an independent country from 1960, Cameroon still has an autocratic rule that made country one of the poorest in the world. The country has a lot of work to do, especially in the fields of child labor and corruption. The positive developments are present, such as the low unemployment rate and high school attendance rates. These and similar positive examples provide hope for the citizens that a country can be categorized as an “emerging market” by 2035.

– William Lloyd

Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Nigeria
Modern Nigeria arose in 1914  from two British Colonies, one predominantly Muslim and the other predominantly Christian. The difference in religion translated to different political beliefs, causing tension between the two populations. The resulting violence and constant tensions between different ethnic groups have caused disunity in Nigeria, making it vulnerable to the threat of different extremist groups, most infamous being Boko Haram.

Boko Haram Role in Conflict in Nigeria

Boko Haram, a major source of conflict in Nigeria, was first created in 2002, driven by existing beliefs that Islamic, Sharia law should be enforced. The group has used various tactics including suicide bombing, terrorizing public places, and kidnapping to push for their goal. The violence and fear they have spread have intensified the existing 53.5 percent poverty rate in Nigeria.

The crisis has displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and has left 228,000 refugees without a home. Nigerians facing conflict and displacement consequently have restricted access to food as there are 4.5 million people that are food insecure. Although the effects of conflict in Nigeria do depend on the area, with the North region of the country having generally more dramatic effects because of the presence of Boko Haram, the problems are present in the whole country. Blocked access to health care affects up to 11 percent of the population while restricted education affects up to 26 percent.

Health and Education Issues

As of 2017, Boko Haram destroyed 788 health facilities in Northeast Nigeria, leaving Borno state with 40 percent of its facilities lost. To make matters worse, 30 percent of Borno’s doctors have left the state in fear of the violence. Displacement brings health care concerns as well, with crowding increasing the risks of diseases in a country with a history of polio. The lack of health care facilities means that in the case of a disease outbreak, vaccines may not be fully distributed.

A similar situation exists for schools, with 57 percent in Borno not being in a condition to reopen, and 1,400 schools destroyed in this region. Children are also vulnerable to being used as suicide bombers, especially girls. The constant threat of violence, hunger and poverty prevents children from progressing and becoming educated, posing dangerous long-term effects for current and next generations.

Effects on Agriculture

The disunity and conflict spill over to the agricultural sector, sector that employs 70 percent of the total labor force. Pastoral farmers are moving south because of the threat of Boko Haram in the north, along with pressures of drought and limited space, create tension with existing sedentary farmers in the south. These often violent conflicts have killed 2,500 people in 2016 alone and have led to an annual loss of around $13.7 billion to the country.

It also forced the displacement of 62,000 people between 2015 and 2017, leaving them with restricted access to food and shelter and amplifying existing poverty in Nigeria. An end to these conflicts could potentially increase family income in the country up to almost 210 percent. With the majority of Nigerians depending on farming for their livelihood, it is evident that conflict Nigeria is worsening poverty.

The UNHCR in partnership with 70 organizations is working towards alleviating the effects of the conflict in Nigeria. They have offered child violence protection, gender-based violence protection, economic support and other services to around 180,000 people. With a focus on displaced people, the UNHCR has increased protection in displacement camps, making a safe place for those affected by the conflict.

Evidently, these conflicts are damaging the lives already impoverished people in the country, restricting their already limited access to food, education and health care services. Various organizations are fighting against these effects in order to hopefully improve the conditions of people affected by the conflict in Nigeria.

Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Chad
With an estimated 200 ethnic groups who speak about 100 languages living within its borders, the central African nation of Chad is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The nation is also one of the theorized places of origin of humankind, an idea substantiated by a ~7 million year old humanoid skull discovered within Chad’s borders.

Through its history, Chad has been a central part of some of Africa’s greatest empires, a French colony and an independent state marred by internal and external conflict. Chad is an incredibly complex nation with many factors that contribute to poverty and instability. Here are 10 of the major facts about poverty in Chad that will hopefully demonstrate how the country could benefit from foreign aid.

10 Key Facts About Poverty in Chad

  1. After gaining independence from France in 1960, Chad fought in a civil war for almost 24 years. France, Libya, the Arab leaning northern regions and the African-leaning southern regions of Chad were just a few of the major parties involved in this conflict.
  2. Continuous power struggles within the nation have led to the deaths of more than 51,000 people and the complete instability of an ever-changing government.
  3. Lake Chad is an expansive fresh-water source that provides for millions of people living in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The lake is central to food and water supplies, land support and nutrient recycling, regulatory groundwater replenishment, carbon sequestration and air purification. Over the past 45 years, Lake Chad has lost 90 percent of its volume and surface area.
  4. Diminishing rainfall, water pollution due to increasing oil exploitation and commercial rice and cotton farming and the absence of government environmental regulatory programs all contribute factors to the destruction of the Lake Chad Basin. Agriculture, which employs nearly 83 percent of the working population in Chad, and the livestock sector, which provides direct or indirect income for 40 percent of the population, made up 23 percent of Chad’s GDP in 2015. Thus, the disappearance of the lake is a large factor in Chad’s poverty.
  5. Since 2015, Chadian forces have combatted the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram to restabilize the Lake Chad region. By the beginning of 2017, attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram displaced more than 100,000 people and created 7,000 refugees on Chadian soil.
  6. The presence of Boko Haram in Chad has periodically closed the border to Nigeria, a main outlet for trade, and slowed economic growth in the lake region. The instability created by Boko Haram’s terrorism further exacerbated long-standing tensions between ethnic communities and the civil conflict in Chad.
  7. Reports for 2017 illustrated that 28 percent of Chad’s population struggle with food insecurity. That is approximately 4 million people — 98 percent of whom live in the Sahelian belt that stretches across west Africa from Senegal to Chad. In fact, malnutrition rates are above emergency levels for children between the ages of five and nine in the Sahel region of Chad.
  8. To help improve food security and reduce instances of malnutrition in the Sahel region of the Lake Chad Basin, the World Food Programme is supporting 1.4 million of the region’s most vulnerable. The group accomplishes such an admirable feat by providing cash-based transfers that can be used to purchase food at local markets and improve the regional economy.
  9. In 2011, the richest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for about 48 percent of total consumption expenditures, while the poorest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for only 5 percent. The increase in these wealth disparities can be attributed to the growth in the oil industry, as the increase mainly benefited oil-related investment in urban capital; meanwhile, the rural industry of cotton production went into decline.
  10. The poverty gap index, a measure of the how much average income of impoverished people falls below the poverty line, shows huge discrepancies between urban and rural areas in Chad. Rural areas have a 22.6 percent poverty index gap, while urban areas stand at 6.6 percent. Rural poverty is more severe due to low levels of education, large numbers of children per household and climate changes’ direct effect on income and employment. Overall, the incidence of monetary poverty was twice as high in rural areas than it was in urban centers in 2011.

Hope of Continued Effort

Poverty in Chad has improved incrementally over the last 50 years, but there is much progress to be made especially when compared to many other developing areas. These 10 facts about poverty in Chad show an incredible opportunity for foreign aid to improve infrastructure and stability.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in NigeriaViolent conflicts largely incited by the militant group Boko Haram continue to ravage northeastern Nigeria and the larger Lake Chad region. Due to these conflicts, youths in the area face the unwanted yet real menace of being recruited as child soldiers in Nigeria.

Parties Recruit and Abduct Children for War

In 2016 alone, there were 2,122 cases of deployment of children for military purposes in Nigeria, according to a 2017 United Nations report on children and armed conflict. The report also stated that Boko Haram used four boys and 26 girls for suicide attacks in 2016; 13 more children were killed in November and December by the Nigerian security forces, which suspected them of carrying bombs.

Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a vigilante group that opposes Boko Haram, also recruited child soldiers in Nigeria, though they were mostly used for supporting roles. The Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) was also accused of deploying children in warfare.

A United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report pointed out that children merely 12 years old were recruited by NSF. The report also explains that some of the child soldiers in Nigeria were originally arrested or detained for alleged connections with Boko Haram and might have been forced into military operations by the state.

“Human Bombs”

Some suicide bombers were as young as seven or eight years old. In a bombing in Maiduguri in December 2016, two young girls set off explosions in the middle of a crowded market, killing at least one and injuring 17 people.

“They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion. I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn’t answer. I thought they were looking for their mother. She headed toward the poultry sellers, then detonated her explosives belt,” local militia member Abdulkarim Jabo told United Press International.

In only the first eight months of 2017, 83 children were made into “human bombs,” more than doubling the number of child suicide attacks in the entire year of 2016. Most of the children used were girls.

Reintegration for Child Soldiers in Nigeria

Children who were able to escape from Boko Haram often suffered further from rejection as they tried to reintegrate into civilian life, as the use of child soldiers in Nigeria aroused fear and distrust among the general public. Child soldiers also have to endure severe physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Those who return home often face discrimination and even ostracization by their families, including girls who were forced to be “wives” in captivity.

The United Nations calls for the unconditional release of children from armed forces worldwide and the increase of resources for the purpose of reintegration and education of released children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2017 that 65,000 children worldwide had been released from armed groups in the past decade.

U.S. Government (USG) Programs Support Highly Vulnerable Children

On June 7, 2018, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington announced a $112,000,000 donation to assist with humanitarian efforts in the region. USAID will manage the use of funds via Food for Peace, Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. Ambassador Symington said that among its recipients, the donation would go toward helping child victims of the violent conflicts in the area, many of whom have been forced to separate from their families.

USAID and other USG agencies have cooperated to mediate similar humanitarian programs around the world. A USAID program based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) helped reintegrate previous child soldiers through communication campaigns that directly talk to local community leaders, psychosocial counseling, family tracing, education, financial support, etc.. In a single year, the program identified 1,905 children and provided them with health and psychological support.

More attention must be given to the children being exploited by these groups. With the continued efforts of government programs, there is still hope for child soldiers in Nigeria.

– Feng Ye

Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

Ongoing challenges in Lake ChadCountries surrounding Lake Chad in Central Africa are facing staggering levels of poverty. In addition to ecological challenges, violence stirred up by the terrorist organization Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has begun to affect other nations in the region — notably Chad, Cameroon and Niger — causing detrimental consequences on food and livelihood security.

How the Region’s Citizens Are Being Affected

Due to ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, the United Nations has found that 10.7 million people are in need of assistance, seven million are food insecure and 515,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. According to the Operational Inter-Sector Working Group, the upcoming June-to-August rainy season in the Lake Chad region will leave 536,000 people vulnerable in Northeast Nigeria.

Areas of Concern for Ongoing Challenges in Lake Chad

  1. Once the third-largest source of freshwater in Africa, satellite images show that the lake has vanished to roughly 10 percent of its original size, putting millions from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria at risk of losing their main source of water. In the 1960s, populations surrounding Lake Chad, which was then home to over 130 species of fish, enjoyed a level of food security.But decreasing water levels from the overuse of water, prolonged drought and global warming are forcing local populations to switch from fishing to agricultural production. “This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Food and Agriculture Organization Director -General Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome in early 2017.
  2. Currently, armed fighting is a staple of the region. In Northeast Nigeria, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization, will severely hurt cultivation in peak seasons in 2018. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of fatal conflict events in 2017 compared to the years 2013–2016 in this region. Households are highly dependent on emergency assistance from humanitarian aid agencies and deteriorating living conditions have led to population displacement.In addition, some areas are facing additional conflicts. There were 323 protection incidents reported on 84 sites in the Chad Lake region between January and April 2018, including violations of the right to property, violations of the right to life and physical integrity and sexual violence, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  3. Food prices are well above average and are much higher than what is sustainable for those making low wages. Concern is higher in the summer “lean season,” when income is lowest and food prices are highest before harvest begins.Although humanitarian aid organizations are providing supplies, USAID reports that more needs to be done to eradicate acute food insecurity. USAID estimates that in the Adamawa State region in Nigeria, response needs are likely much higher than the organization is able to reach.

How Challenges Are Being Addressed

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working heavily to mitigate ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, creating a response action plan for 2017–2019 which targets Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. To assist nearly three million people, the Food and Agriculture Organization is in the process of implementing programs include providing livestock emergency support (restocking vaccinations and animal feed), supporting food production and rehabilitating infrastructure to bolster production.

Next, there seems to be mutual understanding among countries in the region of the urgency of action. In February 2018 in Abuja, the Lake Chad Basin region commission along with the Nigerian government and UNESCO held a conference called, “Saving Lake Chad to restore its basin’s ecosystem for sustainable development, security and livelihoods.”

Finally, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. In April 2018, 2.25 million people in the northeast area of Nigeria received food assistance from the organization.

Ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, including the disappearance of Lake Chad, civil conflict driven by Boko Haram and limited access to foodstuff, have pushed thousands into poverty. Keeping these issues in mind, humanitarian aid organizations are working to mitigate and reverse the impacts of decades of damage.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in NigerWomen living in Niger face great adversity due to a lack of education, a prevalence in child marriages, and challenges stemming from conflict. Fortunately, many women are taking steps to ensure a better future for their daughters.

Women and girls in Niger are some of the least educated in the world. Less than a quarter are literate and less than a tenth ever attend secondary school. This is a big deal considering that attending secondary school for a year can mean as much as a 25 percent increase in a woman’s earnings later in life.

Niger has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Three in four girls under the age of 18 are married. The legal age for marriage in Niger is 15, but various women’s organizations and groups are hoping for the passage of a proposed law that would change the legal age to 18 years.

Aminata Gba Kamara, aged 19, said “Girls in our country need so many things. They need psychological support, they need counseling. Their esteem is very low.” Many women think husbands are needed for protection, and life outside the home is not given much thought, said Kamara.

Protection is a real concern for many, as conflict is a daily fact of life. In the past three years, over 100,000 women and girls have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee form violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. There are shelters and places of refuge, but women forced into seeking these often fall victim to a cycle of poverty. Most women fleeing from Boko Haram have been traumatized by physical and sexual violence. There is a normalization of discrimination and violence against women and girls on a daily basis.

Even with all these challenges, there are feasible solutions and women’s empowerment in Niger is a large part of it. Change is being implemented from the ground up, and youth are driving it forward. Campaigns have been formed to raise awareness about the issue and boost the self-esteem of women and girls. Tackling the problem of child marriage is important for Niger, as it will increase the amount of citizens attending school rather than staying at home.

There are rays of hope for women’s financial empowerment in Niger as well. For instance, a recent push by CARE to help Nigerien women become financially independent via combined insurance policies and female financial groups has been fruitful. The savings groups, called Village Savings and Loan Associations have been a major factor behind women’s financial empowerment, and serves as a base for improving inclusion, health, nutrition, and agricultural productivity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Education and ReintegrationSince 2015, Niger has been subject to attacks by jihadist group Boko Haram. In 2016, Niger launched a new political initiative: a de-radicalization and reintegration program based on education and participation for the captured Boko Haram fighters. This strategy, also known as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), can be effective during violent times. It is the means to achieving post-war goals and maintaining order in society.

DDR, now seen as a useful tactic to countering violent extremism, has become a political strategy, one that supports education and vocational training rather than violence and imprisonment. Rather than fighting violence with violence, the idea is to stimulate peace by instilling conventional development goals for society. Despite the de-radicalization classes and vocational training in the DDR camps, jobs are scarce and poverty is still rampant, making extremism more attractive to civilians.

Structural issues in the prison system and reintegration issues in society create more obstacles for the government in maintaining peace. Niger lacks the proper legal mechanisms or sorting criteria for prisons and the DDR program. No set standards exist for distinguishing between the detainees and escapees sent to prison or to the DDR program. Without these legal processes, the Boko Haram ex-insurgents are still legally terrorists. The U.N. excludes Niger and refuses to provide them with international assistance; the U.S. also does not grant them foreign material aid.

There is a need for supporting this method at the community level as well. Many ex-insurgents find it hard to reintegrate into a society that rejects them. People need to understand that in order to thwart the threat of extremism, it is necessary to destroy the ideology and punish those who spread it, not those who were a product of it.

This initiative has been pioneered by the southern town of Diffa. Diffa governor Mahamadou Lawaly Dan Dano has requested that the University of Diffa help build the community for those in the program. With 150 people in the program, including fighters’ wives and 28 young boys, conditions in Diffa became poor. After an escape attempt, it was relocated to a refugee camp in Goudoumaria where it can expand. They now have food, water and even a small infantry.

Despite not having schools until the 1990s, this region is now receiving 12 EU-funded vocational training centers and is set to put this into action. Another DDR program is working with this effort to release some of the 80 minors detained on both sides of the border to transit and orientation centers in Diffa.

Limiting risk through a national acceptance of the larger enemy and incentivizing peace through a collaborative systematic process are how education and reintegration could save Niger from Boko Haram.

Tucker Hallowell

Photo: Flickr

State of Emergency for EducationEarlier this month, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai visited Nigeria and met with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to discuss the changes she envisions for Nigeria’s education system. Additionally, she has declared “a state of emergency for education in Nigeria.”

While Nigeria is one of Africa’s wealthier nations, it also has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. In fact, 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school, 60 percent of them girls, according to the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF). Many of these children live in the country’s northeast region, particularly in the Boko Haram hub of Maiduguri, in which education has been under attack for the past nine years.

Boko Haram destroyed the classrooms and schools in the area. Most notably, the group is responsible for the abduction of more than 200 girls from their school in the remote town of Chibok in April 2014. This prompted international outrage and the #BringBackOurGirls movement, for which Malala herself campaigned online. Of the abducted girls, only 106 were released, rescued or escaped after more than three years in captivity. The other 113 are still in custody of the extremist group. As a long-time advocate for girls’ education, especially in war torn areas, Malala is the perfect spokesperson for the state of emergency for education in Nigeria.

In an op-ed in The Guardian, Malala detailed her visit to Maiduguri and the girls she met there “who have faced so much violence and fear in their young lives but are still determined to go to school.”

“Studies are clear,” she says in another interview, ”educating girls grows economies, reduces conflict, and improves public health.” The percentage of Nigeria’s budget for education decreased from 9 percent to 6 percent since her last visit to Nigeria in 2014. Meanwhile, the international benchmark for education spending is 20 percent of a country’s overall budget. In her meeting with President Osinbajo, she outlined several necessary key changes including declaring a “state of emergency for education” to focus attention on the education of Nigerian children.

She also suggested that Nigeria make school funding public and triple its education budget. She emphasized that the country should implement the Child Rights Act in all states. Her main goal is to raise awareness of unenrolled children in Nigeria and to highlight the fact that if Nigeria makes education a priority, it has the material means to make vast improvements.

Nigeria is in a state of emergency for education. Across West Africa, 46 percent of primary school-aged children out of school are Nigerian. Globally, one in five children not enrolled in school is Nigerian. During the Boko Haram insurgency which began in 2009, the group killed 2,295 teachers and destroyed almost 1,400 schools, displacing over 19,000 people.

Organizations such as UNICEF work closely with the Nigerian government to decrease these worrying statistics, especially in northeastern Nigeria. More than 525,000 children enrolled in school this year alone, while the country established over 37 temporary learning spaces. Relief organizations distributed about 92,000 packs of learning materials to help children continue their educations in areas especially vulnerable to attack.

Advocates like Malala are important in creating change because they put new international spotlights and pressure on governments to reprioritize education. Time will tell if the changes she envisions for schoolchildren in Nigeria come to pass. Continued advocacy work around this issue is important to ensure that a generation of schoolchildren does not fall behind.

Saru Duckworth

Photo: Flickr


Boko Haram, the dangerous Islamic extremist terrorist organization in Nigeria, has been severely attacking the country’s education system. If the attacks continue, the lasting negative legacy will be detrimental for Nigeria.

Boko Haram is based in Nigeria and a translation of the group’s name in Hausa is “Western education is forbidden.” Boko Haram’s impact on education has flipped the Nigerian educational system as a whole by stealing the education of the youth and attacking the system in every way possible. Boko Haram gained publicity when they kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok.

Girls as young as 11 have been employed as suicide bombers. Teachers have been targeted, resulting in 600 teachers being murdered and 19,000 teachers fleeing in fear. Other teachers have been threatened, injured or even kidnapped.

“I have been a teacher for 20 years now, but I’m always afraid to attend class,” Ahmadau Abba, a teacher at Jajiri Government Day School in Maiduguri explained. “Most of our colleagues have been killed or injured.”

Finding teachers who are willing to teach in the region has become a great struggle because of the dangerous repercussions. Boko Haram’s impact on education has been felt throughout the entirety of the Nigerian educational system.

Out of a total population of 160 million, about 10 million Nigerian youths are not in school, many of them girls. Instead of reading and learning, they are married off in their teens, while out-of-school boys are recruited into terrorist ranks.

By early 2016, an estimated 952,029 school-aged children have fled the violence, with little or no access to education.

The high displacement from the hands of Boko Haram has forced school-aged children to be placed in private homes and communities. In such communities, schools are made up of students of the same age congregating in large rooms or under trees for about three to four hours a day. However, these children do not have access to textbooks and their teachers must teach without any teaching aids.

In Borno, one of the devastated states, schools at all levels have been closed in 22 out of the 27 local government areas for a minimum of two years. With this gridlock on education, children are more vulnerable to becoming trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Boko Haram’s impact on education has impacted thousands of students by stealing what is rightfully theirs. For a nation that has the lowest school attendance nationwide, the attacks on the educational system have been severely damaging for Nigeria.

“Education is the foundation of society; without it, development is very difficult,” says Margee Ensign, the president of the American University of Nigeria. “I don’t think that many in the international community understand the dimension of the problems here in the northeast.”

Mary Waller

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