Life was good. Fati was an administrator at a training college in Kanama, northern Nigeria. She had moved there after marrying her husband, Bori, a teacher. And, she was pregnant with her ninth child.
Then, in 2014, on the first day of Ramadan, the tranquillity of the holy month was shattered. Home with the children and due to give birth at any moment, Fati heard screams. She was confused, bemused even but not worried. Bori came running, frantic and out-of-breath. He told them to hide.
Armed militants had entered their town and gone on the rampage. Being a teacher, Bori was a prime target. Two of his colleagues had already been beheaded for teaching the "Western system" of education.
He had to get his family out of the town as fast he could. On their motorcycle, the family made their way to Maine, close to the Niger border, arriving with absolutely nothing. The local host community was welcoming and alongside others, Fati’s family were registered as refugees and given a parcel of land.
Starting afresh, away from home
Then Fati gave birth to her child, soon after. Unable to work herself, Bori had to take extra work, doing manual jobs. “It was difficult to feed their children,” he recalls.
That is when they were forced to have their older girls, between 18 and 10, work in the neighbouring town, doing household chores to scrape enough together for the family.
“Then, for a period of two years, there was some relief when the family received food from the Red Cross," Fati said. When the support ended, the girls were forced to return to work.
When Fati felt strong enough to do some work, she started selling bread and sweets, but she admits life was tough.
The support that changed a family’s struggles
Finally, in 2018, World Vision and FAO started a programme to support 4,500 refugee and displaced households, 30,000 farming households and 900 stockbreeding households, through a region-wide resilience project.
The goal was to give the household a means to build a sustainable source of income by providing capital and materials. Fati received three goats, 300 kilogrammes of animal feed and 80,000 FCFA.
Fati has managed to grow that capital into a famous corner shop in the camp selling a variety of items, including batteries and soap.
She has since sold the sheep, allowing her to invest back into her shop, including selling beignets, mostly eaten for breakfast.
"It makes me very proud that I can now feed my children and support their education," she says.
Her husband, Bori, now mostly does manual jobs in and around the camp to support the family. "I am at peace and proud of my wife for growing a business that now takes care of the family’s needs," chimed in Bori.