by Umaru-Maina Kidaffa
Very cold mornings, extremely cold nights, dry air, atmosphere filled with dust and low visibility, temperature as low as nine degrees are all characteristics of the Harmattan season brought into Nigeria by the North-East trade winds and which spreads down south having worst effects in the north eastern states of Borno and Yobe.
As a child growing up in the city of Maiduguri the Borno State capital, the season of harmattan (mostly early December to late January) used to be one of the most trying times considering the abrupt change of weather from a scotching hot season to a severely cold and dry weather bringing all kinds of ailments including flu and dry cough, affecting mostly children due to low immunity. Hospitals and clinics are always flooded with children and infants for treatments and vaccinations during the period.
I considered myself a very lucky kid because I had a roof over my head, a blanket to keep me warm at night and also a nice cardigan for school. I was also opportuned to attend one of the best primary schools in the state, a choice school for the elite in the state and as such different beautiful and warm clothing flooded the school’s compound during the harmattan season.
I always got heartbroken by the street kids I saw on the way to school, barely clothed and sometimes clustered around mai kose (akara seller) to warm themselves with the heat from her burning local stove. Up till now, I wonder how they passed through the cold night with those clothes. Do they even have blankets or a proper house? From the dried catarrh around their noses and mouths, cracked dry lips with traces of blood and very white dry skin caused by the cold-dry air, I doubt they did.
Vaseline is a cheap remedy to all these but as cheap as it appeared to me it was a luxury to those kids who were like me.
Everybody by now is aware of the insurgency in the north-east with Borno being the worst hit, rendering a lot of people homeless and some children orphans, leaving them sad and hopeless about life. Thank God for the intervention of some government agencies that set up camps to accommodate these unfortunate victims of the menace.
There is no place like home as the popular saying goes and as such I decided to visit my home in Maiduguri after a long time away. The city now appears to be more populated due to the high number of displaced persons that have migrated into it with most of them not having means of livelihood but rather solely depending on government and well-meaning individuals for survival.
Driving through some of the camps I saw some kids under a neem tree, their eyes spelt misery, worse than those of the street children from my past. They are depressed and confused. I learnt some of them used to be from relatively well-to–do homes with bright hopes and aspirations but all got dashed in the twinkling of an eye when their communities were raided by the insurgents, their homes burnt down and some losing their parents in the process.
I really could not do much to help the kids on the street while I was a child but I ask myself: what about now? What can I do to make these children feel any better? As I pondered on these, I got a call from my former proprietress who is equally disturbed and wants to positively affect the lives of these young victims.
Imagine how someone’s life could be transformed from sleeping on bare concrete cold floor to a mattress, or how grateful a displaced Baga orphan will be when given toys. Think about how the old cardigans you throw away can be a life-saver to a child on the streets of Maiduguri. As common as Vaseline appears to be it is a scarce commodity to some. A displaced girl would appreciate an old text book or novel to read.
Being a Nigerian and having visited more than half of the states in the country, I have come to realize that an average Nigerian is either a Christian or a Muslim and with my knowledge of both religions, both encourage helping the needy. Just as the Holy Bible says “if a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15), so the Holy Quran equally state “Yasaloonaka matha yunfiqoona qul ma anfaqtum min khayrin falilwalidayni waalaqrabeena waalyatama waalmasakeeni waibni alssabeeh wama tafAAaloo min khayrin finna Allaha bihi AAaleemun” (Quran 2:215) translated as “They ask you about giving say” the charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the travelling alien” Any good you do, Allah is fully aware thereof”
On this ground considering the harmattan is fast approaching I want to appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians who feel the need to help a displaced child in Maiduguri to please donate relief materials such as old Cardigans, Blankets, Vaseline, Head Warmers, Gloves, Socks etc. You never can tell how little acts of kindness can change someone’s life. Some old colleagues and I have decided to make it a project by collecting this relief materials and getting it across to the children before the harmattan season.
Remember, that item which is of no use to you is of great need to someone else for survival.
N.B- ALL PATRIOTS WHO WANT TO DONATE TOWARDS THIS CAUSE FROM ACROSS THE NATION CAN CONTACT THE FOLLOWING PERSONS: –
WAZIRI – 08080153516,
UMMI – 08036086264,
Umaru-Maina Kidaffa is a human rights activist.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.