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UNFPA Supports Abducted Nigerian Girls’ Transition to Normal Life

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2014 (IPS) - When Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from their schools in Chibok, Nigeria last April, an international outcry was heard across the world under the slogan #bringbackourgirls.

They have not been brought back, but some of them have escaped and returned to their community. While the search effort is mostly in the hands of the Nigerian government, the United Nations and relief organisations are looking after those who are back.

Explaining the role of the U.N., Ratidza Ndhlovu, head of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, said: “We are supporting girls who have returned and also pre-positioning and getting ready for the girls when they come out. [We are] also helping the communities to be ready to receive the children”

This translates into programmes targeting, for example, sexual and reproductive health. UNFPA has undertaken a screening plan for the girls and provided “home delivery kits” and means to restore the dignity of women.

“The issue of sexual violence is very serious” Ndhlovu said, as most of the girls have been raped “both by the insurgents and by other men who take advantage of the situation”.

UNFPA also provides education and brings mainstreaming family planning into an emergency response situation, in terms of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.

“It is not the best time to be pregnant, when you can hardly sleep in your house, when there are no clinics, and when you are running all the time”, Ndhlovu said.

The community is still shaken by the insurgency and the violence, and is left with very little services. The psycho-social support to the girls has achieved very good results, she said.

“Initially they didn’t want to hear anything about going back to school, because they were at school when [the abduction] happened”. But after less than two weeks of psychosocial counselling, they were ready to go back.

At the time, Malala Yousafzai , the Pakistani school girl who was shot by the Taliban, had just visited Nigeria, Ndhlovu added, and that helped the programme to be more effective.

She said counseling has been provided in order to prepare traditional leaders welcoming the girls back and not stigmatising them. Men and boys were also trained with regard to their responsibility towards the girls. A lasting hope, of course, is to see the rest of the girls back, she added.

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