It was a day full of hills and valleys, storms and clear skies, feast and famine.
The car refused to start and the much-anticipated camp visit seemed to die before it was birthed. To the rescue came Über and soon our donations (good quality used children’s books), our packed lunches, my two children and I were off on our first visit to an IDP camp.
Uche who drove us, was good to converse with and the drive to Eleko Beach road was soon over. That was where the dream ended and the nightmare began. After frantic calls we turned right into the untarred road that was more obstacle course than road. The “just keep going down” we were told by way of directions seemed to be never-ending. Near despair, we saw a makeshift shelter and with relief, we realized we were finally there.
Leaf green T-shirts and baseball caps were everywhere, some taking biostatistics, others consulting and others dispensing. After meeting, I got a chance to sit and talk with Moses. Listening to the history of this predominantly Chibok community, how and why it is not an official camp and the aftermath of the recent release of 21 of the kidnapped girls, one felt like one had stepped into a twilight zone. However all around me, I could see the real fallout of the saga; women without their usual form of livelihood and children idling about out of school.
We were interrupted as my attention was called to a lady with a gynaecological complaint. Finally!! I was going to be useful. I had strayed into the consulting area once and quickly run out. Ah!! When last did I treat a child? *ALAKOBA!! The lady seen, I was soon able to get the women together for a women’s health talk.
Choosing a lingua franca for the talk was the first challenge as having an interpreter was not going to be enough. Apparently, some of the women spoke Hausa and none of the local Chibok dialect. My interpreter did not speak Hausa well so it was decided…Pidgin. It was actually fun describing the need for self breast examinations, symptoms of vaginal infections and cervical cancer in Pidgin English. Ending with a passionate plea for pregnant women yet to register for antenatal care due to financial difficulties to step forward, the health talk ended.
Brooding on the death of one of these women while delivering at home because of the N9,000 registration fee at the maternity centre, my reverie was soon broken by a long line of women waiting to see me for the same gynaecologic problem…thrush. Antifungal medications were not one of the free drugs we had available so we made a list of those who we would send the drug to once we got back. Another pressing need identified was family planning that would be safe, cheap and acceptable.
Getting ready to leave, it was obvious that the community had many needs we would have to collaborate with others to meet. From cervical cancer screening to education, much was required to serve the community holistically. We left knowing it had been a day well spent, yet demanding more of such. God was truly guiding all our steps and so with joy we looked forward to more days in His service.
*alakoba: a Yoruba slang
Written by Dr Obi