A Home for Amina

A Home for Amina

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A Photo Essay on a Mother Running for Her Life

The ravages of violent conflict, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change are affecting more than 17 million people across the Lake Chad Basin. Spanning northeastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, southeastern Niger and western Chad, this is one of Africa’s biggest humanitarian crises.

The Lac region of western Chad is home to some of the region’s poorest communities. Lake Chad, once the source of livelihoods for generations in this part of Africa, has shrunk to one tenth of its original size. Seasonal rainfalls have declined, but the population continues to grow.

Since 2015, the violent conflict originating in Nigeria has spilled across the border, affecting more than 430,000 Chadians and forcing more than 118,000 from their homes – people like Amina*.

“My name is Amina. I lived with my family on an island on the lake, until the insurgents came one night and attacked our village. They burned our home to the ground. I swept up my children and together we ran.”

Amina and her family took refuge at Daraim Camp, a settlement for the displaced on the outskirts of the small town of Baga Sola, on the shores of Lake Chad, 370 kilometres north of the capital N’Djamena.

Most of the camp’s residents live in shelters built from whatever materials they can find including branches of trees and old metal sheeting. The shelters offer little protection from the sun, wind and rain. Construction materials are in short supply in this remote desert region, and the little that’s available is too costly for most families’ meager resources.

To ensure families like Amina’s have somewhere safe to sleep, CARE began working with camp residents and local authorities to design new shelters specifically for conditions in the Lake Chad region. Especially adapted to the sandy terrain, the shelters are made of locally available materials such as ‘kai,” the reeds grown on the edges of the lake.

The shelters protect their residents from the heat of the dry season, the winds of the cooler season, and the rains of the wet season. The structures are expected to last between eight and nine years.

“I love my new ‘home’,” says Amina smiling. “We are well settled and I’ve begun a small business weaving mats and household items for sale. With the money I make, I’m able to buy food for my family.”

CARE is doing what it can but the needs are many:  food, shelter, clean water, health and, most of all, peace. “If there was peace tomorrow,” says Amina, “I would go home – to my real home - today.”

*names have been changed to protect privacy

**All photos credited to Maxime Michel/CARE

Her home burned down, on the run with her children, Amina is a testament to the strength mothers show to protect their babies. But no one should have to endure what Amina has. Photo credit: Maxime Michel/CARE