Nigerian children left orphaned after their parents were killed in attacks by radical Fulani tribesmen received food and money from the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria this Christmas.
On Dec. 23, ECCVN hosted Christmas celebrations in several Central Nigerian states that gave widows and orphans shopping supplies, food, facemasks and cash. Over 1,800 orphans received gifts from the organization at the events. At the celebrations, the children dressed in Christmas Santa hats and painted their faces. One of ECCVN’s employees dressed as Santa Claus.
Nigeria has some of the highest orphan numbers on the African continent, with an estimated 17.5 million orphans today. Terrorist groups including Boko Haram have killed the parents of many Nigerian children. Radical Islamists have killed over 34,400 Nigerian Christians since 2009. Children have also been orphaned by HIV and other causes.
Orphans often have no one to provide them food, give them medical attention or protect them from abuse. They often do not receive an education or job opportunities.
Terrorist groups prey on these youth and train captured orphans to carry out terror attacks.
In Nigeria, most families depend on fathers to earn money for food, ECCVN CEO Dalyop Solomon told Opera News. To find some of the children and give them gifts, ECCVN searched in remote villages in Nigeria’s Plateau State.
"In Africa, life in rural areas is always difficult. To lose a father in such gruesome attacks, could be traumatizing, and depressing, being the breadwinner," said Solomon.
ECCVN has given gifts to orphans in Nigeria on several previous occasions, Solomon said.
Poverty in Nigeria makes it difficult for local people to support orphans, said ECCVN relief chairman Gasto Barry to Opera News. And a recent lack of donations has made the situation worse.
Since its founding, ECCVN has remained present in Nigerian communities before, during and after Islamist attacks. It focuses on helping Nigerian victims of violence, reporting violence by radical Islamist tribesmen, and providing legal services so victims can receive justice.
Two widows at the event said the gifts made a difference in their lives.
Lydia Monday said to Opera News that after her husband’s murder, she had no hope of feeding her children. The Christmas gifts provided her children with the food they needed.
"This is the first time we are witnessing anything like this. I have not seen such smiles on our children's faces for a long time," said widow Hanatu Dung to Opera News.
The orphans must rely on donations for food because attacks by Fulani tribesmen keep them off their own farmland.
"These orphans mostly feed from donations because they can't access their homes or farms to cultivate anything and eat. The donations, unfortunately, stopped coming a long time ago. But for ECCVN to still remember them, it shows how concerned it is about their wellbeing," said Nigerian youth leader Christopher Maren to Opera News.
Christians interested in helping Nigerian orphans can donate to the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian group that partners with ECCVN.