Smuggled to Nigeria, displaced by conflict, one woman’s journey across three Boko Haram affected countries

Naoumi Edou arrives in Doba with her grandchildren and daughters. @ IOM Chad 2015

By Rania Yousif

Naoumi Edou, a 47-year-old widow, is originally from Doba in Logone Orientale, a region in the south of Chad.

In August 2013, in order to support her two daughters, Naoumi set out and moved to Baga Kawa, a town in northern Nigeria which borders Chad.

Her relocation from Chad to Nigeria was costly and dangerous. Naoumi sold her house and other belongings to pay smugglers who helped her cross Lake Chad into Cameroon, before finally reaching Baga Kawa.  

In Baga Kawa Naoumi lived with her two daughters, four grandchildren and a stepson. She earned a living by making and selling cookies in the market while her stepson ran a shop.

In May, Boko Haram fighters attacked the town of Baga Kawa. The attack took place at 2:00 am, according to Naoumi. She escaped and managed to reach the edge of the river called “Doro Baga” after five hours of walking. 

“After having arrived at the edge of the river, we did not have money to pay for the canoe to cross,” Naoumi narrates, “Thank God one canoe owner accepted to transport us free of charge to N’Gouboua, a village on the Chadian side of the border with Nigeria.”

The journey was very exhausting because of the distance and their fear of another Boko Haram attack. 

Naoumi's son-in-law was killed by Boko Haram during this attack on Baga Kawa.

Once Naoumi and a group arrived in N’Gouboua, they were received and fed by the head of the Church in the area for one month.

“We stayed for one month and just when we thought that calm has returned, one night at around 02:00 am we heard the shooting,” says Naoumi. “We decided to flee with our children again. We had to hide in the forest for three days.”

She says the group only returned to the village once the Chadian Military had fought Boko Haram fighters who then retreated.

In N’Gouboua the group lived in very precarious conditions. The church leader then assisted the group with 10,000 FCFA (USD 20) to support them to start a journey to return home.

“My nephew who was in the Chadian military gave me 10,000 FCFA (USD 20) which I used to rent a vehicle and travel to Bagasoula,” she says.

Once Naoumi and her children arrived in Bagasoula, 10 people were hosted by some relatives for 3 days.

“Even though they could hardly sustain themselves, some family members hosted us. Then they referred us to IOM to get assistance.”

Naoumi and family spent another month and half in very poor conditions along with 26 families in a hangar provided by Societe de development du lac Tchad (SODELAC), a national institution in Bagasoula.

On 17 May 2015, Naoumi was one of the 87 Chadian returnees that IOM assisted with transportation from Baga Sola to their areas of origin in South Chad.

“With God’s grace and IOM’s assistance we are safe and well,” says Naoumi, who is visibly relieved to be heading back to a place she left only less than two years ago.

IOM assists displaced persons and returnees by providing with food, water, temporary accommodation and transport to safety.  

Since the beginning of January 2015, over 32,000 Chadian returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Boko Haram attacks have been displaced in the border areas between Chad and Nigeria in the Lac Chad region.

Rania Yousif is a Project Officer at IOM Chad in Ndjamena