This is a guest post by Sherrie Russell-Brown. She is an international human rights lawyer, who writes about issues of gender, security, international justice and humanitarian law, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa.
The Nigeria Foundation for the Support of Victims of Terrorism, also known as the Victims Support Fund (VSF), is an organization with a mandate to administer support to and raise awareness of the victims of Boko Haram’s insurgency. While a key initiative of the Federal Government of Nigeria, implementation is private sector driven. To date, the VSF has raised approximately twenty-eight of fifty-four billion naira pledged in 2014. According to Professor Sunday Ochoche, executive director of the VSF, a conservative estimate of two trillion naira would be required for the immediate short term intervention to address the physical damages associated with the insurgency. No single agency, not even the Federal Government, has the capacity to sufficiently address the damages caused by Boko Haram.
The VSF has identified three key priority areas: women’s economic empowerment, children’s education, and the mainstreaming of psychosocial support. By the end of this year, ten thousand women in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states are expected to benefit from the VSF’s economic empowerment program focused on fostering entrepreneurship. Approximately twenty thousand children are reported to be in the VSF educational support program, with hopes of meeting the needs of over fifty thousand children by year’s end. The program supplies the children with everything they need to return to school, from books to shoes. The VSF also supports the Safe Schools Initiative with two billion naira, the largest interim measure to which the VSF has contributed. Psychosocial support is mainstreamed throughout the VSF’s initiatives and it has also given grants to hospitals in Abuja, Adamawa, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Plateau, Taraba, and Yobe states in order to fill gaps in care to victims of the insurgency.
As part of its mandate the VSF is responsible for caring for all of the Chibok girls that have been, and will hopefully be, rescued. As such, it is the VSF that will be funding the care of the recently freed Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki. But, it is important to remember that she is not the only victim in need. As a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency, nearly one million children in northeast Nigeria have been deprived of an education. Women and girls have become an integral part of Boko Haram’s strategy, with a dramatic increase in the number of child suicide bombers, usually girls. The humanitarian community is reportedly failing women and girls who have suffered gender-based violence at the hands of Boko Haram.
In the wake of the second Regional Security Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, and last Friday’s UN Security Council Presidential Statement there was an acknowledgement that an inclusive approach focused on addressing the drivers of extremism--poverty, deprivation, lack of opportunity and education--is needed in order to degrade and defeat Boko Haram.
According to Mr. Alkasim Abdulkadir, spokesperson for the VSF, Amina will be provided with full psychosocial support, a scholarship to a secondary school and university of her choice, as well as enrollment in the VSF’s economic empowerment program. The reintegration, education, and health-care needs of her child will also be met. However, with the challenges it faces, including funding and the remaining pledges, it remains to be seen the extent to which the VSF can meaningfully execute its mandate for the remaining victims.