Kolom: “Because of the militants who surrounded our community, we lacked food. If we were lucky, we cooked one meal a day.”
For nearly ten years, the conflict between the Nigerian government and local insurgency has been tearing apart Northeast Nigeria. Nearly 27,000 people have been killed and more than two million have been displaced in Adawama, Yobe and Borno. Resources are scarce, and much of the population relies on humanitarian aid to survive.
Many, like 25-year-old Kolom Abbas, have survived unimaginable circumstances and traumatic journeys to safety. Before arriving in Hursobeshar, an informal displacement camp, three years ago, she lived with her husband and three children in Marte, a conflict zone under the control of insurgents.
“As a woman, I was not allowed to go outside,” recalls Kolom. “Because of the militants who surrounded our community, we lacked food. If we were lucky, we cooked one meal a day. For two years, we were full of sadness because even when we had the food, we could not cook; even when we could cook, we were afraid to start eating because we feared an attack.”
Kolom and her family were eventually able to escape. When military airstrikes began, they took advantage of the chaos and started a long journey to safety. “We walked in the bush for four days,” says Kolom. “When we arrived in Maiduguri, we were exhausted from tiredness and hunger.”
But Kolom’s life has been changing for the better, now that she is part of a group of women called the Porridge Moms, an initiative run by Action Against Hunger.
Every day, the women from her group – each group of Porridge Moms counts 15 women – gather together and make nutritious meals for themselves and their young children. As they cook, the mothers learn and share with each other and with Action Against Hunger’s teams about nutrition, healthy childcare practices, and good hygiene. The group receives a monthly stipend to pay for food items and other costs.
For women like Kolom, being part of the Porridge Moms group is not just a way to help make sure her family gets the nutrition they need – it’s a way to cope with harsh living conditions and a precarious future. “I was pregnant, and I lost my child two months ago when I went to the hospital because of medical complications. If I stay at home, I only think about our situation and my sickness. It is better for me when I go to the kitchen with the Porridge Moms.”