Many women in the Divisional Church Council (DCC) Shuwari Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp, Maiduguri, are faced with economic hardship as the absence of aid leaves them struggling to meet the most basic needs, including menstrual hygiene.
Once a place of refuge, the DCC Shuwari Camp provided abundant support for women like Hakuri Yusuf, a 26-year-old single mother of three.
Hakuri recalls the day she arrived at the camp in 2014, fleeing from the invasion of her hometown, Gwoza. The camp was a lifeline at the time, with food and non-food items readily available to the displaced residents.
Saratu Emmanuel, an 18-year-old displaced person in the camp also shares Hakuri’s recollection of those times. Life in the camp was initially bearable, providing a temporary respite from the violence and uncertainty they faced outside its confines.
However, in December 2022, a turning point arrived. The aid they once depended on suddenly disappeared.
“With the departure of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), we no longer get these aids. I stopped receiving aid in December 2022,” Hakuri laments.
After her husband returned to Gwoza three years ago, she was left to struggle for survival with her three children. She has recently had to send them to her parents because she could no longer provide for them.
Narrating her bitter experience at the camp, Saratu told HumAngle that IDPs are confronted with difficulties in terms of food and shelter.
“We are not receiving any aid from any organisation or the government. We face several challenges in this IDP camp.”
She added that the removal of subsidies by the Nigerian government has had negative effects on IDPs as “most of us sleep hungry.”
Patience Amos, a 23-year-old student at Ramat Polytechnic, shares a similar story.
Her father passed away before she was born, and her mother has been the sole caregiver. Patience helps by engaging in small trade activities to support her family.
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis has rippled through every aspect of these women’s lives. The skyrocketing prices of essential commodities have made survival a daily struggle.
For example, a mudu (a local measure of approximately 1.5kgs) of maize, which used to cost ₦400 ($0.52) in January, has now reached ₦1500 ($1.97). As a result, they can only afford to eat once a day.
Patience paints a grim picture, saying, “Things are costly now. We measured a mud of maize for ₦1500. Most of us don’t even have the means to purchase this food item. This affects our health.”
Impact on women’s reproductive health
Amid these challenges, something as essential as menstrual hygiene becomes a distant dream. The economic downturn has made sanitary pads and other menstrual hygiene products unaffordable luxuries for these women.
Hakuri, in a tone laced with frustration, reveals that “I no longer use pads. Since the NGOs stopped giving us aid in August last year, I have returned to using rags during menstruation. Rags are not as effective as sanitary pads. They cause rashes. Also, you cannot sit comfortably amid people because of fear of leakage.”
Patience’s experience is no less harrowing.
She has resorted to changing her underwear every 15 to 30 minutes when it gets stained, washing them with warm water and salt before putting on another pair. This painful ordeal repeats itself up to six times a day.
Saratu’s account is equally disheartening.
“The NGOs used to give us reusable pads. However, such aid is no longer available now. So, most of us use rags during menstruation. On days my parents have the means, they buy sanitary pads for me. And on days they don’t, I use rags or the reusable pad given by Action Against Hunger. But it has expired now. So, I use rags. On days I get menstrual pains, I take warm water with a mixture of potassium,” she lamented.
These women have, however, developed coping strategies to manage their menstrual pain. Hakuri resorts to drinking boiled moringa water, Patience rubs her stomach with a warm rag, and Saratu drinks warm water with a mixture of potassium. Yet, these solutions are makeshift, offering limited relief.
The lack of sanitary pads and proper menstrual hygiene tools, coupled with the relentless economic hardship, has profoundly impacted these women’s lives.
Hakuri, once vibrant and friendly, now withdraws from noise and crowded places. She prefers solitude to avoid embarrassment and discomfort.
Plea for help
In the face of these overwhelming challenges, these women issue a heartfelt plea.
“We will appreciate it if either the government or NGOs will continue helping those of us still in the IDP camp,” Hakuri implores. Their voices resonate with countless other women facing similar circumstances across the nation.
The stories of Hakuri Yusuf, Saratu Emmanuel, and Patience Amos epitomise the hardships internally displaced women face in Maiduguri and beyond.
Humanitarian workers familiar with the situation of the displaced women have observed that beyond their struggles, their experiences underscore the urgent need for sustainable solutions to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products for all.
“As we bear witness to their strength and resilience in the face of adversity, it becomes evident that collective efforts are needed to alleviate their suffering,” said Abubakar Sadiq, the chief executive of the Center for Advocacy, Transparency Accountability Initiative (CATAI), a local NGO supporting persons affecting adversely affected by the insurgency.
“Providing sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene kits is not just a matter of comfort; it’s a fundamental issue of dignity, health, and human rights.”
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