Avishek Banskota is MAG's Community Liaison Manager in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in north-east Nigeria. Here he talks about his experiences in the region and how MAG is helping people stay safe.
Everyone I have met here has been affected in one way or the other by the conflict involving Boko Haram – whether losing a family member, a friend, or a house. People can’t move around freely in most of the region and much of the land can’t be used to farm or collect firewood. The impact on communities is huge.
I’ve been working for MAG in Maiduguri for 15 months now and have witnessed the devastating increase in casualties as a result of landmines and unexploded bombs that litter the region. The conflict is complex and daily life in Maiduguri is hectic with every day presenting a new challenge. Travel is heavily restricted, with humanitarian staff only able to access some remote areas by helicopter. In the last couple of months, the security situation around Borno State has deteriorated further.
Many of the people I have met here have lived through tragedy. Hajja, a mother our team met in Nigeria, told us how her family returned home after conflict had moved on from their area. The family thought they were returning to safety. Unaware of the dangers, Hajja’s son and grandson went out collecting wood for their fire. They came across an unexploded bomb that killed them both instantly. This is why it’s so important that we respond urgently to this crisis to teach families about the dangers around them.
We're unable to clear landmines at the moment because the situation is too volatile but what we can, and have to do, in the meantime is help families and their children live as safely as possible by teaching them the dangers of landmines.
Despite the challenges, we are determined to give children the life-saving information they need to stay safe. We use songs, theatre, games and colouring books to make the lessons engaging for children. Each child leaves our sessions equipped to recognise, avoid and report explosives.
International crisis planning does not currently prioritise the response to new landmine use in Nigeria. Until it does children and families will remain in danger every day.
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