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Rebuilding lives

Tackling crises in Nigeria, one family at a time

How the IRC’s protection team helps displaced families rebuild their lives

Ayuba, Janet, and Jennifer

Eleven days after Ayuba lost his wife in childbirth, the IRC’s child protection team found his newborn twin daughters, Janet and Jennifer, severely malnourished and at risk of starvation. Ayuba’s family lives in Adamawa State, northeast Nigeria, in the midst of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, where millions lack access to basic essentials like healthcare, clean water, and even food. Unable to afford nutritional milk to feed his newborn babies, the 41-year old farmer and father of five had nowhere to turn.

The IRC's child protection teams go community-to-community in hard to reach areas to find families just like Ayuba’s, providing essential aid and teaching families how to identify warning signs of malnutrition. The protection team began feeding Ayuba’s babies special milk to regain weight and reach healthy nutrition levels. They also provided Ayuba with a baby kit filled with soap for baths, reusable nappies, and blankets. Several weeks later, Ayuba told the IRC team that during the last medical check-up, the doctor confirmed his twin baby girls were healthy. 


Two hundred kilometres from Ayuba’s family, in Borno State, lives Hauwa, a 13-year-old girl who was displaced by conflict and now lives with her father and step-mother. Hauwa lost her mother eight years ago to HIV/AIDS and has lived with HIV herself since birth.

Hauwa showed symptoms of HIV for a long time before she was diagnosed. She was also malnourished, as are hundreds of children in the area where she lives. Hauwa’s family brought her to one of the IRC’s protection groups, which serve as a resource for the community and connect vulnerable people to medical and nutritional services. 

When the IRC team took Hauwa to the hospital, tests revealed she was HIV positive and significantly underweight. In order to be able to receive treatment for her condition, she first had to go on a nutritional food diet for a month to gain enough weight for her body to accept HIV drugs. She continues treatment to this day.

The IRC gave Hauwa's family a grinding machine, which they use to grind maize, cereal and other foods to sell on to support their family. This also ensures Hauwa stays healthy, eats well and can afford her medication, so she can go back to school. Today Hauwa is healthier, happier and accepted by her community.



11-year-old Usman lives down the road from Hauwa. Conflict in central Borno State forced his family to flee their village; they tried to rebuild their lives in the state capital of Maiduguri, where the arrival of displaced people over the last decade has doubled the city in size. Usman’s dream is to become a doctor and help people, but his parents could not enrol him in school because he did not have a birth certificate—a common issue for many displaced children. 

The IRC's team connected Usman's family with the National Population Commission, where they could obtain necessary certification allowing him to enrol in school. Soon after getting his birth certificate, Usman was admitted to Abbaganaram Primary School, where he currently studies with his new friends.

The IRC and ECHO in Northeast Nigeria

In the three most northeastern states in Nigeria, nearly a decade of conflict is pushing many families to the breaking point. The United Nations’ latest assessment reveals that 7.7 million people need assistance, including 3.7 million people who don’t have enough to eat, and 2.9 million children who are facing psychological stress and other trauma. Famine was barely prevented in this area only months ago, and conditions are expected to deteriorate further in the months to come. With generous support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the IRC’s programmes provide comprehensive services to hundreds of thousands of people in the most critically affected areas. One of these services is protection monitoring, where teams of volunteers are recruited by the IRC to monitor their communities and look for people, like Ayuba, Hauwa, and Usman, who need services. By working on the ground, building relationships with individuals and organisations, supporting community groups to identify vulnerable people, and referring cases to the appropriate services, the IRC expands its life-saving programmes to areas where help has been out of reach for years, one family at a time.