Boko Haram Victims Stranded in Refugee Camps Trade Sex for Food

Women and girls in a Nigeria-based camp for people who have been displaced by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) wing known as Boko Haram are trading sex for food, reports Reuters.

Located in the capital and largest city of Borno state, the Bakassi camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) is suffering from a lack of aid, which is driving many females to desperate acts, notes the news agency, citing the medical charity International Medical Corps (IMC) and Nigerian research group NOI Polls.

“At times, the food is not enough so the women resort to giving themselves for food and money,” Hassana Pindar of the IMC, which runs support centers for women in the camps, told the news agency.

Boko Haram’s primary stronghold is located in the Sambisa Forest, which covers parts of the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Kano.

“Aid agencies have warned of starvation, malnutrition and dwindling food supplies for the displaced in Borno State,” points out Reuters.

The news outlet reports:

Almost 90 percent of people uprooted by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria do not have enough to eat, according to a survey last week by NOI Polls, which found that many women are trading sex for food and the freedom to move in and out of IDP camps.

The pollsters said that sexual abuse was a concern, and that the displaced accused camp officials of perpetrating it in two thirds of cases.

Hundreds of the displaced staged a protest last month in Maiduguri, accusing state officials of stealing food rations, prompting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to order police to arrest and make an example of the culprits.

Reuters spoke to one of the women in Maiduguri’s Bakassi camp, Amina Ali Pulka, a 30-year-old who had sex in exchange for extra food to giver her five children.

“I did it because I had nobody to feed me or clothe me,” Pulka told Reuters, adding that the man also gave her money, which she used to buy personal items.

Like her, the man has also been displaced by Boko Haram and is residing at the Bakassi camp.

Besides mothers, many teenage girls in the camp are also using their bodies to obtain food and money, according to IMC volunteer Fatima Alhaji.

“Some go out to beg on the streets, others go out of the camp to look for menial jobs, while others use their bodies to get food and money,” she told Reuters. “Everybody is talking about it.”

Reuters notes:

Boko Haram violence has left more than 65,000 people living in famine in the northeast, with one million others at risk, and more than half of children under five are malnourished in some areas of Borno state, a coalition of aid groups said last week.

The Islamist militant group has killed about 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in Nigeria in a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating a state adhering to Islamic laws.

A U.S.-backed offensive launched by the military of Nigeria and neighboring countries has pushed Boko Haram out most of the territory it controlled in northeastern Nigeria.

The Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed that the group and its leader have been vanquished.

However, Boko Haram continues “to carry out suicide bombings and raids in northeast Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad,” reports Reuters.

Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, was featured in a recently published video defying the Nigerian army.


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