A rare cultural festival in which ordinary citizens portray exotic royalty returned to Maiduguri’s Shehu Courtyards. Drawing 800 people, it promoted social cohesion and peace. PHOTO BY BUKOLA BAYO-PHILIP
TABLE OF CONTENTS 3 Foreword by Kathleen FitzGibbon
5 Foreword by Stephen Haykin 7 Introduction by Olivier Girard 8 Strengthening the Voice of Women and Girls 18 Reducing Individuals’ and Communities’ Vulnerabilities to Violent Extremism 26 Improving Community Security 32 Responding to COVID-19 41 About the Office of Transition Initiatives 43 Acknowledgements
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 1
2 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
To the NERI team and our Northeast partners: It is with great pride that I write these words to honor the hard work of the NERI team and those in the Northeast who partnered with us on this incredibly meaningful project which has spanned over six years, improving and saving countless lives. I am grateful for the privilege of getting to know the members of the NERI team. I looked forward to all our discussions because their commitment to enhancing the lives of millions of vulnerable people was truly inspiring. Their stories and anecdotes painted a picture of the everyday hardships and fear that so many Northeast residents face, but also the creative solutions the team
K athleen F itz G ibbon Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria
developed to protect people and their livelihoods. Each small intervention represented hope given to people who had nowhere to turn. These inspiring projects demonstrate how things are indeed changing — even if on the smallest scale or at the most personal level. NERI has created beautiful partnerships. It has helped to create change in places where one would think change could not happen. It also has brought hope and bolstered resilience in communities throughout Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. We can see this change in the faces of the people in these photos. It has been an honor to be part of the NERI family. I burst with pride and admiration for the accomplishments depicted in these pages. Behind every smile I see the courage and commitment of brave, dedicated professionals who built trust and true partnerships in a very dangerous environment. The legacy of this program and the relationships that it created will continue to grow beyond this project’s lifetime. I salute our Northeast partners who will continue working to counter the damage being done by insurgents and terrorists and to build stronger communities in the region. There are not enough words to do justice to all the great work I have heard about. Let these photos remind us every day of our appreciation for NERI and our Northeast partners! — Kathleen FitzGibbon
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 3
4 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
To the NERI team: It is with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to the second of the two projects known as the North East Regional Initiative (NERI). The management, staff and partners of NERI have made exemplary contributions. Performing in often difficult circumstances and, at times, putting themselves at risk, the NERI team is deserving of great respect and appreciation.
A defining characteristic of the NERI approach was its deep community engagement informed by the team’s solid grasp of the dynamics and challenges involved. NERI was responsive to the needs expressed by host communities — needs that included supporting security, strengthening social cohesion and providing critical infrastructure. NERI’s active engagement with women further strengthened the projects’ impacts on security and aided in reducing vulnerability in key communities throughout the Northeast. NERI’s outreach to civilian and military authorities was excellent. NERI built upon these relationships to encourage dialogue with assisted communities, resulting in increased confidence in and growing support for the authorities. This, in turn, enhanced goodwill toward the United States, while strengthening capacity and resilience to combat extremist groups. NERI, through its contextual insight and rich analyses, helped me and others on my team to understand the contours of violent extremism and the aspirations of communities in the Northeast. We grew to understand the need for security trenches, negotiations with state forces to keep markets open and the revival of communities’ cultural traditions. These insights greatly informed our discussions within the U.S. government as well as our interactions with other Nigerian and international partners. Fortunately, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives is working to document salient lessons learned so that these insights can inform future activities and current projects. Congratulations to the management, staff and partners of NERI on a long string of impactful, community-based interventions that promoted stability and helped to counter the threats of violent extremism in Northeast Nigeria. — Stephen Haykin S tephen H aykin Former Mission Director, USAID Nigeria
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 5
6 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
INTRODUCTION T he U.S. A gency for I nternational D evelopment ’ s Office of Transition Initiatives launched the North East Regional Initiative in 2014 as the flagship program to address the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. NERI, implemented by Creative Associates International, has been working for the past six years in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to support locally driven efforts to strengthen stability and deny violent extremists the space they need to operate. In the past two years, NERI narrowed its focus to increase the resilience of key strategic towns and corridors in the Northeast against the influence and activity of violent extremist organizations. During that time, NERI and its local partners implemented more than 200 activities as a means to reach that goal. This photo book commemorates and serves as a lasting reminder to these
O livier G irard Chief of Party, North East Regional Initiative
activities and the resulting achievements made by Northeast Nigerians and NERI, working side by side to realize crucial gains in the battle against insurgency. Behind each photo are stories of individuals and communities defying the odds to promote peace and reject extremist violence. This book is divided into four chapters, each covering an area of focus during the past two years. • Strengthening the voice of women and girls • Reducing community and individual vulnerabilities to VEO influence and action • Increasing community security in target areas In March 2020, the new coronavirus pandemic hit Nigeria. NERI rapidly pivoted to raise awareness and prevent the transmission of this disease. The fourth and final chapter of the book presents NERI’s work to improve the state governments’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Northeast Nigeria. As you will see in the acknowledgement section of this book, there is a long list of people and organizations that made NERI’s activities and goals a success. It has been a sincere honor and privilege to work alongside these talented, dedicated and innovative people during the past two years. They are well prepared to continue to realize the positive change they seek. — Olivier Girard
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 7
AishaWakil Abdulrahaman leads a group talk about economic inclusion among women in Maiduguri. PHOTO BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
8 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
The widow of a soldier receives a tailoring startup kit
STRENGTHENING THE VOICE OF WOMEN AND GIRLS My hope for them is to become strong women, very confident women who can stand up for each other in the long run and promote peace and security.” — Rukayya Jibrin, Women, Peace and Security Project Manager, North East Regional Initiative
need to address the obstacles facing women and girls, as well as improve their abilities to organize, advocate and become active members of and leaders in their communities. It developed a comprehensive approach that leveraged the U.S. government’s Women, Peace and Security strategy and guiding objectives, including promoting the participation of women in decision-making processes and protecting their rights. NERI implemented 34 Women, Peace and Security activities valued at more than $1.7 million with community organizations, state and local governments, mentors and traditional leaders, among others.
I nvesting in women , encouraging them to be active in their communities and to take leadership roles are critical to breaking the cycles of conflict and instability that threaten them, their families and neighbors. In Northeast Nigeria, women and girls face numerous hurdles. They are marginalized because of traditional and religious structures, suffer from gender-based violence, face poor access to education and are excluded from decision-making at home and in their communities. Compounding the situation is a decade of violence, abduction and coercion that has disproportionally affected women and children. The North East Regional Initiative (NERI) program identified the urgent
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 9
The two-year, three-state program emphasized issues that mattered most to women and girls. For example, it partnered with the Borno and Yobe Ministries of Women’s Affairs to provide hundreds of women — many of whom were widows — with access to farmland and expanded irrigation, which had a tremendous effect on household income and stability. Among its achievements, NERI created Women for Peace Platforms that brought women together and strengthened their social connections through biweekly facilitated discussions on issues such as gender-based violence, hygiene and security. Implemented in seven municipalities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, the platforms organized women into clusters and provided strategic support that ultimately expanded their influence as decision-makers and community advocates. The Women for Peace Platforms also created a sense of solidarity among the women who united to improve their communities. Particularly important in conflict areas, these social connections bolstered the women’s psychosocial well-being, which has been damaged by years of conflict. More than 90% of participants reported that their sense of well-being improved after the program. NERI further invested significantly in three girls high schools in Maiduguri, supporting the creation of a book club and organizing a sports tournament to promote young women’s leadership and empowerment. The program also renovated the girls school libraries and toilet facilities. Perceptions of women and girls shifted as a result of the entire portfolio of targeted programming, both among the participants and across the wider communities. An independent study NERI conducted found that expectations about women’s ability to tackle community problems such as food insecurity, sexual violence and education increased after the program. Overall, the program directly benefited nearly 21,000 women and girls with improved livelihoods, higher self-esteem and greater feelings of empowerment.
NERI organized two major activities to improve the psychosocial welfare of women who have been victims of traumatic experiences. They were aimed at helping women to heal and to become community caregivers. Here, a group member offers comfort during a psychosocial capacity-building event organized for women in Dikwa LGA, Borno State. PHOTO BY SAFER WORLD FOUNDATION NERI held a two-day dialogue with women in Monguno and Maiduguri LGAs to foster stronger, more sustainable and more trusting relationships between the women and security officers. The two groups, comprised of 30 female community members each, met with Police Gender Desk officers. PHOTO BY PARTNERS WEST AFRICA NIGERIA
10 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
NERI assists Women for Peace Platform members with capacity building and business startup kits to help reduce economic vulnerability. PHOTO BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
NERI organized a series of empowerment activities in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affairs in Yobe and Borno states. Here, Hon. Zuwaira Gambo, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in Borno State, leads a solidarity walk in Maiduguri, with two hands up, to commemorate 2020 international Women's Day. PHOTO BY ANIEBIET BASSEY Members of Women for Peace Platform receive their business startup kits in Geidam LGA, Yobe State, on Jan. 22, 2020. PHOTO BY MODU GONI TELA
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 11
NERI renovated libraries in three high schools for girls and furnished them with desks, chairs and books, giving the girls resources and space to do their assignments.
12 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
The newly renovated library at Government Girls' Secondary School, Yerwa, Maiduguri.
NERI started a Pilot Book Club for high school girls in Maiduguri LGA, Borno State, training 10 book club facilitators to mentor 100 girls. This activity empowered girls to improve their reading and helped build their confidence so they may better express and assert themselves in their communities. They also learned valuable life skills such as how to articulate opinions, present arguments and discuss challenges they face as they explore the context of the stories they read. Winners of the book club’s debate competition show off their medals. PHOTOS LEFT, ABOVE AND UPPER RIGHT BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 13
An after-school soccer team rejoices after scoring a goal. PHOTOS ABOVE, MIDDLE BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
14 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
Teams square off on the court as a way to build self-confidence and promote collaboration among peers. Girls 4 Peace Sports Tournament champions in basketball.
GIRLS AND SPORTS NERI organized the first interschool girls’ sports competition in Northeast Nigeria to inspire girls to build relationships that nurture positive connections and to improve their confidence to push back against insurgent overtures. About 9,000 schoolgirls from three government girls high schools in Maiduguri LGA, Borno State, participated. Throughout the school year, the girls practiced their team sports and continued to do so after the Girls 4 Peace Sports Tournament in Maiduguri.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 15
WOMEN FOR PEACE PLATFORM
I n partnership with the Borno State and Yobe State Ministries of Women’s Affairs, NERI mobilized 900 women and established Women for Peace Platforms across seven locations in the Northeast. Led by trained community members and supported by NERI’s gender expert, the Women for Peace Platforms are safe spaces for progressive women to discuss topics of interest and advocate in their communities. PHOTOS BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
Women use the platform to share common experiences and solutions that affect their families and communities. Members meet biweekly in small groups to discuss ways to achieve advancement for women. Meeting in the courtyard of a public school, this cluster of women discusses their responses to a scenario in which violent extremists are trying to influence their children.
16 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
Though NERI has concluded, the platform will be an ongoing benefit for the women.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 17
To harness creativity for positive change, NERI supported Co-Development Hub to organize and engage 50 youths in theater groups to produce short videos and conduct social media campaigns and public enlightenment in Maiduguri and Jere. PHOTO BY MUHAMMAD BUKAR UMARA
18 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
REDUCING INDIVIDUALS’ AND COMMUNITIES’ VULNERABILITIES TO VIOLENT EXTREMISM Thank you, NERI, for these magnificent, productive, solar-powered boreholes in our communities. With these we have come to stay — no more migration to anywhere.” — Mallam Ali Baushe Sule, herdsman, Geidam LGA, Yobe State
The results allowed NERI to conduct crucial activities such as widening access to information and communication and improving living conditions by supplying training and tools to help foster economic independence and confidence. NERI partnered with telecom provider Airtel to restore mobile network connectivity in areas such as Monguno, Dikwa, Gwoza and Ngala LGAs in Borno State, providing more than 200,000 citizens access to a phone network for the first time in years. The local population now has a vital connection to the outside world and vendors can contact their suppliers and clients without having to travel.
D etermining what drives people to join violent extremist organizations must be done to learn how to interrupt and thwart their recruitment process and structure, giving Nigerians in the Northeast a better chance to live in peace. To this end, NERI conducted a vulnerability analysis to identify weak spots in communities, then launched initiatives to strengthen resiliency. The analysis included evaluating locals’ willingness to engage with violent extremists and assessed residents’ levels of fear. NERI also noted the types and frequencies of interactions among residents and violent extremists, government officials and security personnel.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 19
NERI further strengthened communities by rehabilitating public infrastructure and providing water boreholes. Access to water sources protects residents from exposure to and pressure from insurgent groups, and the rehabilitated infrastructure has facilitated the return of civilian administrative personnel to the far reaches of Northeast Nigeria. In northern Yobe State, NERI supported the population of Kanamma in successfully advocating for the reopening of their high school, closed five years ago because of violent extremists. In Monguno, Dikwa and Maiduguri LGAs, the program strengthened, trained and formalized community-based youth organizations that are eager to play an active role in the development of their community. These groups have greatly suffered during the insurgency and are often bypassed by donors looking for more established organizations to partner with. Safe spaces for socializing are an important part of every community, for its mental health and for improving morale. NERI helped promote these objectives by facilitating durbars, parades and festivals that had been halted for years because of insurgency. The program also created livelihood opportunities for those on the front lines. Two groups of 200 women each — one group comprised of widows of police officers and the other widows of soldiers and civilians — were trained in practical skills, including tailoring, marketing and business management, and food production, sales and packaging. NERI also provided mentorship and startup kits to help the women launch and grow their businesses. Additionally, farmers received training and machinery for cultivating year-round, and youths participated in cash-for-work activities, with some saving enough to start their own microenterprises. Working to shore up the economy and security measures in Northeast Nigeria and fostering community cohesion allows lives there to improve; at least 80% of residents said at the conclusion of the program that they felt more optimistic about the future. Sustaining these gains and not ceding any ground is the key to long-term success.
NERI helped renovate four television viewing centers across Ladu, Ngamma, Toshia and Kanamma communities in Yunusari LGA, Yobe State. The solar-powered centers are equipped with DSTV dishes, decoders and television sets. These centers have become a space for positive interaction among youths, children and elders.
NERI renovated the Isa Ahmadu Town Hall and sports fields in Mubi, Adamawa State, to promote community interaction and activity. Isa Ahmadu Square had been a place for locals to get together to play and socialize, but the area was taken over by insurgents who used the building to lure and recruit youths into their service.
NERI partnered with the Borno State government to establish a community radio station in Biu.
20 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
An actor dramatizes the effects of violent extremism in his neighborhood. Ten
neighborhood theater groups produced short videos as part of social media campaigns in Maiduguri and Jere LGAs, Borno State. These youth-led groups used their talents as tools to spread positive narratives using social media. PHOTO BY MUHAMMAD BUKAR UMARA
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 21
NERI provided pumps and irrigation systems to support farmers in Jajibiri and Mazogun wards of Yunusari LGA, Yobe State. The pumps allow them to cultivate crops during the prolonged dry season in the Northeast. PHOTO BY LUKMAN BASHIR
22 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
NERI drilled two solar-powered boreholes and organized community security platforms in five Shuwari Tomri communities closest to Maiduguri International Airport in Borno State. PHOTOS ABOVE AND RIGHT BY JIM HUYLEBROEK Residents can now access water at a solar-powered borehole in Monguno, Borno State. This reduced tensions with the military, since the only other free-flowing borehole is on its base.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 23
NERI worked with Airtel, a private tecommunications
company in Nigeria, to restore mobile phone
connectivity in key areas in Borno State. These include Monguno, Damasak, Mafa, Dikwa and Gamboru Ngala. In addition to improved communications capability across the communities, it has also been a springboard for economic activities.
A NERI grant financed capacity-building initiatives and the purchase of office equipment for Michika Youth Integrity Initiative to develop, implement and manage projects to help foster peace and security awareness among youth in Michika LGA, Adamawa State.
24 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY To enhance quick processing and transportation of farmed produce that is often hijacked by insurgents, NERI procured 10 threshing machines, five corn haulers, five grinding machines and 10,000 storage sacks for 10 communities in Geidam LGA, Yobe State. PHOTO BY MODU GONI TELA
After a 10-year hiatus caused by insurgency, a Grand Durbar returned to Maiduguri’s Shehu Courtyards. Organized by NERI, it drew about 800 participants from Mobbar, Gubio, Magumeri, Nganzai and Monguno LGAs, Borno State. The durbar, a rare cultural festival in which ordinary citizens portray exotic royalty, promotes social cohesion and peace. By reviving the durbar, the community demonstrated resilience amid insurgency. PHOTO BY BUKOLA BAYO-PHILIP The first youth-led TEDx event in Maiduguri, Borno State, tagged TEDxShehuri: “The Transition,” drew more than 400 youths, humanitarian and development actors, innovators, activists, community members, government officials and others on Jan. 25, 2020. NERI provided support so the platform could be an exchange of ideas and innovations that would inspire positive social change toward countering violent extremism.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 25
Deep, wide trenches and high berms have become an effective deterrent to incursions by insurgents. PHOTO BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
26 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
NERI rehabilitated the Nigerian Police Force’s Borno State Command radio room and provided more equipment, including repeaters, handheld receivers and mobile radios, enabling them to cover the entire Maiduguri metro area . PHOTO BY ANIEBIET BASSEY
IMPROVING COMMUNITY SECURITY
I have never had the opportunity to talk to security personnel like this. I always saw them as wicked people, but this program changed my perspective. I never imagined that security people could be friendly.” — Hajia Halimatu Madu, community member, Gubio LGA, Borno State
area police and civilian officials and watch groups. Residents’ trust of all these groups waxes and wanes over time and is affected by the behavior of peacekeepers as groups and as individuals, levels of corruption and dozens of other factors. NERI’s goal in planning activities to increase community security was to get the groups to work together, to promote greater understanding and to forge stronger bonds that will serve to protect not just the government structure, but its people as well. Whereas meetings and forums to open channels of communication and improve relations between the police and the community are useful, NERI
T he quickest way to defeat in battle is through division — division of forces, ideals, goals and approaches. “United we stand; divided we fall” captures the essence of the origins of victory. It’s no different for those fighting violent extremist groups in Northeast Nigeria. Thus, in an effor t to increase security by uniting the forces combating insurgency, NERI set out to improve fractured relations between community members and police, security forces and civilian government officials. While security forces are still part of the equation for keeping the peace in Northeast Nigeria, they are now working alongside local government
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 27
Monguno, which was sparsely populated before the insurgency, is a major refuge for displaced persons and the largest humanitarian hub outside of Maiduguri. Among its many activities in Monguno, NERI organized a 10-day cash-for- work initiative to engage 100 civilian residents to clear bushes, shrubs and thickets along the perimeter trench, further demonstrating collaboration with the security agencies.
further led the groups in activities in which they could physically participate and work side by side — concrete activities that produced tangible results they could stand back and look at later, such as the addition of streetlights, floodlights and trenches. The decisions about where to place the lights were made cooperatively among residents and police forces, with participants inputting their intelligence regarding insurgent routes, patterns and behaviors. Solar- powered streetlights make it more difficult for insurgents to surprise residents, as well as allow residents to move about more freely after dark, without fear. Digging kilometers of deep trenches that force insurgents to cross only at manned checkpoints helps to protect the residents from late- night raids, during which insurgents would steal supplies and kidnap women and children. Some activities allowed community members and the police to collaborate on projects of mutual benefit. For example, they recruited and paid community members to rebuild the physical barriers at eight Maiduguri LGA checkpoints to make them more secure.
Security forces’ first line of defense against insurgents is at the Yunusari
LGA headquarters in Kanamma, Yobe State, near Niger. Jointly with community leaders and security operatives, NERI identified
strategic locations and installed solar-
powered streetlights that provide greater visibility and discourage insurgent incursions.
28 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
NERI supported the renovation and furnishing of the Borno State Police Command to facilitate its presence and improve civilian protection. Frequently targeted by insurgents, the Jakana police station is strategically located on the highway connecting Maiduguri and Damaturu.
All these reinforcements — coupled with improved access to cellular networks and other civilian and police communication tools — bolstered community early warning systems, allowing security forces to foil more suspected raids and attacks, keeping citizens safer. Fewer attacks, as well as the visible evidence of improved security, lead to greater trust of security forces and a greater sense of safety and well- being among residents. With funding from USAID and the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, NERI supported the Nigeria Police Force so they could do their job on the front lines more effectively, improving community perceptions. The program also supplied tents for temporary police housing in Borno State, built barracks in Damasak and Monguno, and refurbished the police command in Maiduguri. After the conclusion of the program, residents who participated in activities reported having a more favorable view of security forces, seeing them as more effective and approachable than before. These activities work to unite all those who oppose violent extremists, shoring up resiliency and laying the groundwork for a safer future.
To improve military interactions with vulnerable communities, NERI provided an in-kind grant to the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council to conduct six medical outreach events. Apart from bringing them closer together, this activity also addressed the practical health needs of the populace in Shuwa bypass, Giwa Cluster and Low Cost, which are communities nearest to security formations.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 29
HESCOs are assembled by hand and organized to provide a solid wall.
The completed checkpoint provides superior protection for police officers and a deterrent to insurgents intent on entering Maiduguri. A front-end loader pours sand into the HESCOs.
BETTER PROTECTION FOR COMMUNITIES AND TRAVELERS A n in - kind grant to B orno S tate Police Command upgraded six security checkpoints, including along the vital Maiduguri-Damaturu road. Using a cash-for-work strategy, nearby residents were hired to assemble HESCOs at locations that were determined to be vulnerable or frequently crossed by insurgents. HESCO barriers were installed at the Maiduguri Airport Road, Djimtilo, Chabol, Maiduguri-Monguno Road, Gombe Road and Bama Road. PHOTOS BY JIM HUYLEBROEK
30 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
Community members are hired to build the checkpoint.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 31
NERI organized and trained vulnerable women to produce nonmedical-grade face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Borno State. The women, mostly widowed by the Boko Haram insurgency and participants in previous activities, produced 100,000 masks using ankara print fabrics. This activity has served as a form of economic empowerment for the women, as their face masks have been in high demand across the state. PHOTO BY ANIEBIET BASSEY
32 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
Face masks were made from locally sourced ankara print fabrics and designed according to World Health Organization (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease
Control (NCDC) standards. PHOTO BY ANIEBIET BASSEY
RESPONDING TO COVID-19 What we heard was that people who go to Lagos or China will catch this sickness and anybody who touches them will die. We have been living in ignorance all this while.” — Hajiya Gambori, community member, Monguno LGA, Borno State
COVID-19, nor is it solely the economic fallout other nations have suffered. It’s the reversal of progress in the fight against violent extremist organizations — a loss of the freedoms gained and a return to a pervasive fear that has the potential to long outlast the coronavirus pandemic. NERI has worked tirelessly these last six years to teach resilience skills to Northeast Nigeria residents combating the insurgency. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they expanded their skills to respond and prevent disease transmission. In March 2020, NERI quickly set out to #StoptheSpread. Understanding that locals are more open to receiving information from
NERI partnered with state governments in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa to educate the local population about the dangers of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, teaching them methods of preventing transmission of this deadly virus and how to follow avoidance protocols. While the virus knows no socioeconomic boundaries, it has been shown that those with fewer means and options are more likely to feel the effects of COVID-19, whether physical or economic. Reasons include less opportunity for self-isolation, smaller financial safety nets, poor access to health care and fear of leaving home to seek help. But it is not only sickness and death Northeast Nigerians fear from
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 33
Volunteers went from door to door, demonstrating COVID-19 prevention protocols to community members.
34 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
those they already know and trust, NERI recruited hundreds of women and trained them as health volunteers to help disseminate information. Donning masks, the women went to thousands of homes to inform residents about the virus, its symptoms and how it is spread. They provided kits with soap, hand sanitizer and masks, and they demonstrated proper handwashing techniques and safe methods for containing sneezes and coughs. They left the families with fliers about taking precautions, including wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, staying home as much as possible and practicing physical distancing. This information was also posted on 13 billboards throughout area communities. Through these efforts, nearly a half- million Nigerians in nearly 600 communities received crucial COVID-19-awareness information. Moreover, NERI spread the word to countless others through the use of public address systems and announcements on radio stations. They further set up more than 500 handwashing stations and equipped five isolation centers to help contain potential outbreaks. NERI also helped organize a campaign to provide supplies and compensation to local women, many of whom are widows, to sew masks to be distributed to residents. By August 2020, the women made more than 150,000 masks. These masks were distributed to the state governments, the Nigeria Police Force and the Borno State Ministry of Education. NERI’s rapid pivot to support the Nigerian government’s effort to combat COVID-19 in the Northeast helped to educate and protect its citizens from the ravages of this contagious disease.
NERI undertook two major activities in Borno’s Monguno LGA to raise awareness of COVID-19 and track its spread. NERI trained more than 150 volunteers on care, response and management, active surveillance, contact tracing, case investigation and reporting protocols. Separately, NERI and state health officials organized a 15-day door-to-door awareness campaign across the 12 wards and 11 schools/IDP camps. Fifty volunteers reached almost 7,000 households and 43,500 individuals to educate the community on modes of transmission, signs and symptoms, and ways to avoid contracting COVID-19.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 35
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among police officers in the state, NERI provided 50,000 face masks and created handwashing stations for the Borno State Police Command. The face masks were locally produced by vulnerable women empowered by NERI, and they were branded according to specifications provided by the police command.
36 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
NERI provided 50,000 branded face masks and created handwashing stations for the Borno State Police Command. PHOTO BY JANET LENYA KANUCHUKWUMA
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 37
In collaboration with the Borno State Ministry of Transportation, NERI engaged 50 volunteers to teach sensitization, awareness-raising and demonstration of COVID-19 prevention measures to transport workers through their union. This exercise was designed to curb community spread of the virus and educate transport workers on preventive measures. NERI was able to reach about 2,500 workers during this exercise.
38 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
More than 50 volunteers put up posters in strategic locations throughout Geidam and Yunusari LGAs in Yobe State as part of a COVID-19 Risk Communication and Community Engagement program. The activity was made possible by a NERI grant to the Yobe State Primary Health Care Management Board. PHOTO BY MODU GONI TELA Working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development in Borno State, NERI deployed 100 volunteers who had participated in Women for Peace Platform activities to embark on a door-to-door information campaign on COVID-19 prevention measures in Maiduguri LGA.
NERI facilitated a community awareness campaign in the 10 wards of Damaturu LGA in Yobe State in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in the activity was the delivery of handwashing equipment to Yobe State’s Ministry of Health. PHOTO BY BALA UMAR
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 39
40 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF TRANSITION INITIATIVES T he O ffice of T ransition I nitiatives is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization. OTI supports U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting local partners to advance peace and democracy. OTI provides fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs. By strategically designing activities based on each unique situation, OTI lays the foundation for long-term development by promoting reconciliation, jumpstarting local economies, supporting emerging independent media and fostering peace and democracy through innovative programming. In countries transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy, from violence to peace or following a fragile peace, OTI’s programs serve as catalysts for positive political change.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 41
42 | NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS T his photo book is a visual representation of how everyone worked together to deliver on OTI’s commitment to localization and the Journey to Self-Reliance. OTI’s principle of “One Team” is defined as the co-creation and joint ownership of a program’s vision and strategy, as well as responsibilities and risks, by USAID and the implementing partner. The foundation of a successful One Team approach is open and direct communication that honestly acknowledges and owns successes and shortcomings. Throughout the years, NERI employed the One Team approach with its counterparts, nurturing trust and credibility by engaging in an honest dialogue at each step of the activity cycle, including design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. We offer our sincerest gratitude to all those without whom NERI would not have been able to thrive for so many years: • First, we thank the federal government of Nigeria, security forces and the state governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe for their constant support and collaboration. We did our utmost to listen to their guidance and implement activities that responded to their vision for stabilization and development. • Our work would not have been possible without the U.S. Embassy and the USAID Mission in Abuja, which provided unwavering support and enthusiasm for NERI. We felt privileged to regularly brief the Deputy Chief of Mission, the USAID Mission Director and others on our interventions. Their trust and encouragement boosted our morale and challenged us to do better. • We thank our staff members, consultants, civil society organizations, partners and suppliers who delivered great work under pressure, despite perilous conditions. Their courage, dedication and enthusiasm for the Northeast and the alleviation of human suffering will always remain an inspiration. • We appreciate the Creative and USAID/OTI teams in Washington, D.C., which provided support, approvals and the behind-the-scenes work necessary to keep this program going. • Finally, we thank the women and men of Northeast Nigeria who continue to strive for a better life. This photo book is made possible thanks to the team of staff members (often using only smartphones) and photographers who immortalized NERI’s activities through exceptional images.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL INITIATIVE: A LASTING LEGACY | 43