Overcoming fear: A mother finds peace in reuniting with family

Overcoming fear: A mother finds peace in reuniting with family

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Ibtisam Shahid*, 35, is a mother of seven who lived in Nigeria, in a town not far from the border with Niger. She used to be a businesswoman, selling water, food, and small products. She had a few employees who helped her sell her items in the street. Here, she shares her story of fleeing an armed group that attacked her village: 

“One night, we heard gunshots and everyone ran to save their lives. I was only able to run away with my daughter Imani who was two years old at the time. The armed group caught a group of us — mostly women — by the river and held us captive for two weeks. This was during the cold season so they lit up fires. But one night, the wind blew the fire in the straw tents and they started burning. While they were trying to put the fire off, I put Imani on my back and ran for my life. I hid in the bushes for three days without food or water. I was shivering from the cold but all I wanted was to be as far as I can from the place where they held us. I was praying to find at least one of my family members alive. I was traumatized. I started walking again to the other side of the border and managed to get myself into Niger where I was reunited with my family.

“All I wanted was to know if my children and my family were alive or dead. I was stressed and scared. That is why I seized the opportunity to run away and save Imani and myself. What helped me overcome my fear and stress was to be reunited with my family and to save Imani. She deserves better and I couldn’t imagine a life for her in Nigeria. Today, I’m trying to get over it all and recover fully. Imani is six years old today and she enjoys going to the Child Friendly Space. It is a playground and a place where children can get psychological assistance to manage their traumas. She learned a lot of games and made new friends. She was just a baby at the time we fled. I’m glad I was able to save her and that she is enjoying life today.”

The majority of the displaced are sheltered by communities who are among the poorest in the world. Malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Across the region, one in every three families is food insecure and one in every two people needs urgent humanitarian assistance. 

* All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Ibtisam fled into the cold night and hid for days to escape the armed group that attacked her village in Nigeria. Credit: Rakiétou HASSANE MOSSI/CARE