The voices of women and girls living in IDP camps in Nigeria 

Along with natural disasters, the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamic militant group in Northeast Nigeria has led to the displacement of more than 4.5 million people across Nigeria. Many of these people are living in Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camps in the region. 

Women and children make up the majority of those living in the camps, and they suffer from a lack of food, security and healthcare. They are at high risk of sexual violence with a lack of adequate reproductive healthcare services available. A 2022 study found that a lack of safe abortion services in the camps has led to women and girls seeking unsafe and harmful methods to discontinue their pregnancies. 

The International Centre for Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development (CENPAD) works in these communities to offer reproductive health care and support. 

Using a peer educator model to support access to safe abortion services, CENPAD ensures that women are able to discontinue their pregnancies safely when they need to. They also foster community collaboration and create safe spaces for women to talk about their experiences.  

Since first receiving SAAF funding in 2017, CENPAD has trained 270 women and girls as peer educators across two IDP camps. They have provided accurate and non-stigmatising information about sexual and reproductive health care to over 60,000 women and girls. 

Here are some stories that show how CENPAD’s work impacts girls’ and women’s lives:
  • Hauwa (17): “Boko Haram took everything. My village, my family, my future. I found myself in the camp, and I had to survive. When I found out I was pregnant, I felt trapped. But at the camp, I heard about the peer educators and the service delivery point. The people there are kind, and they understood my situation. They explained my options. Choosing medical abortion felt like getting my life back. Now, I can focus on finishing school, becoming a nurse, rebuilding my dream.”  
  • Shitta (22): “Already, raising four children alone in the camp was a struggle. Another mouth to feed? Impossible. My husband was gone, lost in the fighting. At the service delivery point, they assured me it was okay. That I had a choice. The medicine worked, and I could go back to selling vegetables to feed my children. Now, I can afford to send my two daughters to school, give them a chance I never had. It’s not easy, but at least I have hope.”  
  • Ladi (15): “My family promised me to a much older man after Boko Haram burned our village and we ended up in the camp. I was terrified but I was already pregnant. But then, a friend told me about the peer educators and the service delivery point. The people there listened to me, even though I was scared to speak. They gave me the pills, and the pregnancy ended. Now, I’m hidden with my aunt in another Zone within the camp. I miss my family, but I’m free. I want to learn tailoring, make my own way. This choice saved me from a life I didn’t deserve.”  
  • Mairama (30): “My husband had died months ago. But when the camp whispers started, accusing me of immorality, I felt like dying. They didn’t understand what it is like to live without a husband in this camp. The pregnancy wasn’t his. At the service delivery point, the service provider held my hand, told me I will be okay. The medicine ended the nightmare. Now, I face the whispers head-on. I tell my story, educate others. We deserve choices, even in this chaos.”  
  • Hanatu (40): “Six children, all under ten, without a husband, me and the children living in an IDP camp. Another baby? How could I manage? The service delivery point was my only hope. The staff there understood me. They treated me with respect, gave me the pills. It wasn’t easy, but seeing my children, knowing I can still feed them, makes it worth it. They are my life, and I chose them.” 

Anonymised case studies and photo are provided by SAAF grantee partner CENPAD in Nigeria. 

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