Yola Refugees

Margee Ensigns is the President of American University of Nigeria.  The following is an introduction to her letter regarding Yola Refugees, written by Don North:

Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria

There are more refugees in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state where the American University of Nigeria is located, than local residents. They have fled from towns in northern Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states under siege by Boka Haram insurgents who have massacred villagers, kidnapped their women and children and left their dwellings in flames. Some are staying in refugee camps but the majority are sheltering with relatives in the impoverished communities of Yola. An estimated 300-thousand refugees have crowded into Yola, so far untouched by insurgent violence.

The American University of Nigeria, traditionally concerned with conditions of life for residents of the community, has bought and distributed rice, maize, noodles, cooking oil and soap to growing numbers of refugees since March 2014. The University has, since its inception ten years ago, provided education for the community from kindergarten to High School, facing the fact that with an 80% illiteracy rate there is little hope for improved living conditions which provides a breeding ground for terrorist groups like Boka Haram.

Some of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boka Haram in April 1914 but escaped are continuing their education with scholarships to attend AUN. The U.N. Refugee organization reports over 3 million refugees fleeing Boka Haram violence in the three north-east states of Nigeria, many of them fleeing to neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Many international aid, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim organizations are working with AUN to feed the refugees, but as the crisis continues funds are getting scarce. A compassion burn-out seems to have taken hold.

I was privileged to be a visiting professor of journalism at AUN for the past fall term. I joined in many of the University’s food distribution events to take photos and engage my photojournalism students. My photos clearly show the sadness in the faces of refugees, many of them widows and orphans as they silently endure the terror of homelessness and hunger.

AUN has established a foundation to accept donations to help the refugees and contribute to education in the community. It can be found at WWW.aunf.org. Through this website gifts are fully deductible as a charitable contribution through a 501-C plan. Or checks can be sent directly to American University of Nigeria Foundation, 6931 Arlington Road, #575, Bethesda, MD 20814.

Yola and the northeastern states of Nigeria are a part of our global village under siege. There may be little about this crisis in the pages of your Washington Post or New York Times, but I can assure you it is real. I think it’s necessary more than ever to bring some fraternity to the heart of our technical and bureaucratic society. A helping hand to the refugees of Yola will, I believe, contribute to helping them eventually return to their homes in freedom and dignity.