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At a glance: Nigeria

Fun relief for children in north-east Nigeria

© UNICEF/Nigeria/2016/Krista van den Berg
Children celebrating with UNICEF team at the Dalori camp ‘Fun Day’ in north-east Nigeria.

By Krista van den Berg

Children living in the Dalori camp in north-east Nigeria have seen violence and tragedy, but a day of fun activities gave them the opportunity to just be children.

MAIDUGURI, north-east Nigeria, 30 December, 2016 – Just for a moment, Maimune could forget about her problems. It’s ‘Fun Day’ for children at Dalori camp for people who fled their homes because of violence in north-east Nigeria. It’s a day to play silly games and to make music with other children, to laugh and just be children.

At just 12 years old, Maimune* already knows tragedy. She is one of thousands of girls who have been held captive by Boko Haram and she does not speak about what happened to her. She and her little brother were held by the group for a year and a half.

One night, Maimune found an opportunity to escape. Her brother was not with her and she was faced with an agonizing decision. She had to leave without him, she decided. There is not a day that goes by that she doesn’t worry about what has happened to him.   

She was fortunate to find her mother at Dalori camp in the town of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which is the worst-affected by the violence. “I was so relieved to see her, we both cried and hugged each other,” recalls Maimune. “But still, I am always thinking of my little brother.”

“We hear so many stories like this,” says UNICEF Child Protection consultant Hauwa Magaji. “It is heartbreaking every time you hear them.”

© UNICEF/Nigeria/2016/Krista van den Berg
Children run a race while balancing bottles of water on their heads. One of the activities organized for the fun day.

Hauwa and her team organized this party at the camp so the children had something to celebrate at the start of the holiday season. Children racing while balancing bottles of water on their heads, children playing drums and making noise – for a while, it is just a children’s party and the laughing and noise make it seem normal.

“You might see just children playing, but it’s so much more than that,” says Hauwa. “It’s really important that we organize these kinds of events, where children are able to express themselves. For a while, they are not thinking about the bad things that have happened and it helps to reduce their stress.”

Maimune especially loved the drums. “I enjoyed every bit of today and it was exciting! I loved beating the drum.”

For Hauwa and her UNICEF colleagues, it was also a great way to start the holiday season. “I love it to see a smile on the children’s faces,” she says. “It encourages me in my work for them.”

*Name changed to protect identity.

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