Restoring livelihoods for returnees, displaced by conflict in north-east Nigeria

Written and photos by: Corrie Butler

North-east Nigeria faces one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today. Armed conflict has left 1.8 million people displaced and 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the worst-affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (OCHA, 2018)

Manu Yahya, 58, stands strong and proud with his wiry, tall frame in the doorway of his home in Gelena, north-east Nigeria. His gentle smile greets us as we enter through the gate. His two wives are busy cooking and cleaning inside. A few of his children play around him and goats hop and forage in the yard. There are hope and life in this home, but the walls, battered by bullets and bombs, carry fresh wounds of war.

After armed opposition groups invaded his village in 2014, he and his family fled to neighbouring state, Taraba, where he lived with his relatives in a small and cramped house, waiting for conflict to subside.

“Staying with my relatives was very hard on all of us,” remembers Manu. “It put a great burden on our families.”

By November 2014, Manu and his family decided it was safe enough to return, but he found his home damaged and his many livestock – goats, cattle and bulls – were gone.

He points us to a toppled wall next to his home: “I used to keep my cattle here,” he says.

Losing his livestock meant losing most of his earnings and rationing food for his family, just to get by. Armed conflict has left an estimated 8.5 million people, like Manu, in need of humanitarian assistance in north-east Nigeria. Millions have been forced to flee their homes to seek safety in neighbouring states.

With the support of the Nigerian Red Cross, in partnership with IFRC, Manu received a cash transfer that allowed him to buy goats and cultivate a garden so he could provide food for his family and a means to build back his income.


“Now we are having three meals a day,” he says. “It has made my family happy and improved the economy for our community.”

“Now we are having three meals a day,” he says. “It has made my family happy and improved the economy for our community.”

IFRC is supporting Nigerian Red Cross in providing cash to families, enhancing their ability to earn an income and ensuring basic needs are met, including feeding their family. Cash has been distributed to about 5,500 families in Adamawa and Yobe states allowing them to respond to their own unique needs as they recover.

“My dream is a long life and prosperity for my children,” Manu says with a warm smile.

The Nigerian Red Cross Society, with the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in coordination with ICRC is not only responding to the ongoing urgent needs of vulnerable communities but also ensuring they become stronger and more resilient in Adamawa and Yobe States.