As Assabe prepares dinner, her daughter is by her side struggling with a thick cloud of smoke, blowing on the fire to increase the flames. This has been their evening ritual for quite some time now.
Assabe arrived in Cameroon on New Year’s Day in 2016, after fleeing Nigeria with her husband and seven children following numerous attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. The family had to abandon their house, farmland, animals, family members, and friends to seek refuge in Cameroon.
“In Ggoshe we had a big farm,” she said. “We made a living from selling our farm produce. We also reared cattle and had a small poultry farm. We were forced to leave everything behind and flee to Cameroon. As our children are so young, they couldn’t move quickly or walk for long distances. It took us two weeks of walking to get to Cameroon.” Assabe and her family have settled in Minawao refugee camp, but the difficult living conditions and poor hygiene has had a detrimental effect on their children.
“It was not easy to get food every day,” Assabe said. “We received some food items but it was a very small amount and there were no vegetables for us to make soup with. My children were constantly falling sick. When I took them to the health center, the doctor told me they were malnourished as a result of poor nutrition and hygiene habits.”
Assabe’s story is a reflection of thousands of Nigerian refugee families living in Minawao camp. In collaboration with various partners, Plan International is providing education, health, child protection, water, sanitation, and hygiene services, as well as food, nutrition, and livelihood support to refugees in the camp.
Plan is working to ensure that children and their families have access to nutritious diets. More than 12,000 households have been trained on the creation of vegetable gardens, production of organic fertilizer and organic insecticides, water purification, and good hygiene and sanitation practices. Cooking demonstrations are also conducted to train parents on how to cook balanced meals. Assabe took part in the training.
“In addition to gardening, we learned how to give our children a good diet, how to prepare food in hygienic conditions, and how to purify drinking water and keep it clean,” she said.
Plan also supports the creation of income-generating groups, training them on the management of livelihood activities, and equipping them with the necessary resources to run them independently.
This was undertaken with the technical support of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Assabe became part of an income-generating group after receiving the training.
"Plan International gave our group a grinding machine and a bucket, which we use to grind different food items for people in our block,” she said. “Every month, we share the money we make amongst the members of the group and we keep aside an amount for the maintenance of the machine.”
There is still a long road ahead.
“Our limited financial resources do not enable us to cover the nutritional and livelihood needs of all the refugees,” says Kone Dramane, Emergency Resource Manager for Plan International in the Far-North Region of Cameroon. “We have received much financial support from several donor organizations, but we are still unable to cover the critical demand.”