•Survivors sordid story!
•Our ordeal with the military while evacuating children — Pastor Folorunsho
•’How we keep them alive’
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
It may be difficult to feel the pains of these over 1,300 victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, until you visit the children where they are camped in Uhogua community, in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State. The camp is situated on a large expanse of land acquired by the President of the International Christian Center for Missions, Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, in 2005, with a view to rendering assistance to less privileged children in the area, but unknown to him, a Herculean task was ahead of him. The camp resembles a monastery where you see missionaries who left their families to dedicate their lives to the service of humanity. A 28- year-old German lady, who identified herself as Linda Shoes, works in the camp. Sunday Vanguard saw her at the kitchen assisting the natives to cook for the children.
The German, who disclosed she has been in this camp since 2005, said she left Germany to help humanity in Nigeria. She said, “I am working with the children in need here especially from the North East. So many of them have seen their own parents killed, their families slaughtered. For three weeks they were hiding in the mountains, no food, no water, they ate stones and sand to survive. So many of them, when they came here, the clothes they wore were the same clothes they fled with the day Boko Haram came. No pants, nothing on their feet. Some even came here naked. I am here because this is my calling, that is God’s plans for me. The camp is wonderful. I am happy that we are able to assist these children, about 900 of them from the North East and we have about 1,300 in total. They are orphans, children that have no body to care for them. I am happy God is using people like us toassist them”.
Due to lack of funds to build big and modern halls, you have wooden houses and many uncompleted buildings, where the displaced children are housed. There is a section where chicken pox victims are quarantined, they only move to where others are housed when they are certified okay by volunteer doctors and nurses who routinely come from the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Faith Medical Complex and the Catholic Church in Benin. But notwithstanding the obvious poverty in this camp, Pastor Folorunsho tried to build sports facilities for the children in primary and secondary schools. The facilities are made of wood. The teachers and head mistress of the primary school (Chistlike School), Mrs V.I.Uche, have no office. They operate under the trees which is properly swept so as to make the place as conducive as it can. Anytime it rains, Mrs Uche and the teachers run into the classrooms for cover.
Sunday Vanguard saw 10-year-old Esther Habila weeping ceaselessly and tried to inquire about the problem with the little girl. One of the missionaries explained, “She spent one month, two weeks with Boko Haram in Gwoza, Borno State. She escaped with some people and they trekked to Cameroun for four days, and then to Yola. Her parents were butchered in her presence, so the trauma has been there. She hardly talks, just cries and screams. We are doing everything possible to help her”.
Over 80 of the children are squeezed into one classroom. But the irony of it all is that they learn with joy and pray to God to bring helpers to them in the camp. Majority of the kids are either orphans or have lost contact with their parents as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. Pastor Evelyn Omigie, one of the missionaries at the camp, who took Sunday Vanguard round, told of the challenges they face in taking care of the children. She said: “When these children were brought here from the North East, they came with different sicknesses; many had been feeding on grass, muddy water, their urine. Because of this, we took them to UBTH when they came. So the UBTH decided to bring their mobile clinic here under their community health department and they actually took care of the children’s health needs. Thank God we were able to tackle those sicknesses including chicken pox. Medical doctors from UBTH came, doctors from Faith Mediplex also came to take care of the children. Many have been quarantined and it helped so much because the chicken pox is no longer spreading.
Paying WSSCE fees and feeding
“We also have some of these children writing SSCE and NECO exams. We spent over N400,000 on both exams. The money was raised by our missionaries, particularly our pastor. We have over three hundred churches in our ministry and they raise special funds every Sunday to help. Some people also come around to help financially. We appeal to the Edo government to accredit the school because if the school is accredited, we don’t need to pay huge amount of money to enrol our students for SSCE
“We cook six bags of rice daily to feed the children. If we are making garri, we use four bags of garri. If we are making Tuwo, we use three full bags of grounded corn. The day we cook beans, we cook two full bags with so many tubers of yam. We spend a lot feeding