Nigeria crisis: “No-one has ever asked me to tell my story”

Falmata Ali telling her story to CARE staff in northeastern Nigeria

Today, I was visiting the CARE health clinic in Pulka transit camp, about 120 kilometers from Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, when some CARE staff wanted to know my story.

I was curious to see them on this rainy day. I was wet and wearing my blue and only hijab.

I was emotional. No-one has ever asked me to tell my story. So here goes.

My name is Falmata Ali. I am from Bulakuri, in Northeast Nigeria. I ran to Kodla from the armed opposition group. I have four children and suffered an abortion. I’m 25 years old. My first born is 9 years old, the second is 5, the third is 4 and the last born is almost 2 years old.

My husband, Ali, used to have a small stall in front of our house in Bulakuri, to sell some condiments. We are not living in the best conditions and my husband makes things more difficult. He is affected by what is happening and is always angry.

We were really poor. I grew up poor and I’m still poor.

We were able to escape again, two years ago, as some good-hearted people helped us to go to Kodla and from there to Pulka. We were lucky to have encountered good people on our journey.

I ran without anything. We now live in Pulka transit camp for the last two months in a small 4x4m space with all my four children and my husband.

I hope we would get a way soon to have a better living space.

My childhood was not pleasant because we were just living in poverty and we had hard times and could not eat to satisfy our hunger. My siblings and I would have to go to help people in their farms and they would give us a small portion of their harvest and that is how my family was able to eat at times.

Now, I’m struggling to feed my family and I cannot count on my husband to do so. I have to fight for my children to grow up.

One day, the armed opposition group came into the village and burned the entire. They killed, beat, shot and assaulted everyone they saw. Only a few were lucky to get out of this attack.

They slaughtered my father, killed my brothers and I had to run away to save my life.

My husband had to run away as well as they wanted to kill him. We met in the bushes with our children and we headed to Kodla together.

I received a bullet in my thigh. I did not get any proper medication. I had to pull out the bullet myself.

I took some medicine to fight the fever and that is it. I did not go to the hospital. I could not walk for two months and had to be assisted for everything.

We have been on the run for five years now.

Every village we went to, it was attacked. That is why I think I will be safer in Maiduguri.

I’m still traumatised. After all this, my husband is not taking care of me and our children. He is not able to.

I have heard of family planning and that is why I came to the clinic. I could not do it as it was out of my financial reach. I was using the traditional methods back then but I am not sure of the benefits and the effects on my body.

I am now grateful that CARE is giving it for free.

The CARE staff told me that it helps you space your birth, rest your body and therefore have healthy babies.

Falmata Ali talking to CARE staff in Nigeria
Falmata Ali talking to CARE staff at the camp for displaced people in Nigeria

I am four months pregnant going on to five, so I am praying to deliver safely and start family planning. If it is given for free I will definitely do it as I do not have any means to feed myself let alone have access to health care.

I liked the way the care giver attended to me, listen to me, advised me and gave me medicine to heal me. I think I will be coming back very soon and let her know how this goes.

I would like to give birth in a health centre so that I can be attended by a doctor. This will be my first time to give birth in a health facility. One of my pregnancies was very rough. I was losing a lot of blood. They took me to the closest health centre to stop the bleeding. But usually I give birth at home.

If there is a way, I would love to be assisted with clothes, food and proper shelter.

My children have only one set of clothes each. We need help with water as well. Water in Pulka only comes from the rain.

I would also like to find a job so I can feed my children in the meantime.

I want my children to grow out of their trauma, eat whenever they are hungry and be able to go to school and become important people in the future.

I also pray that the ones who were not able to run away and that are still alive will find a way to be safe and back with their families.

I want the world to know I am a survivor.

I will strive to make it to Maiduguri to be with some family members, where I believe I will be in security and save my children.

I lost my siblings and my father. I only have my children now. I do not have anything left.

Story and photos by Rakiétou Hassane Mossi, CARE Nigeria.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.