Chase Wonderlic & John Ahn
The extremist rebel group Boko Haram has been operating in French West Africa since the beginning of the twenty-first century. In this time, the group has wrought death and destruction in the region, culminating in a major paramilitary insurgency in 2009. In particular, northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria have become hotbeds for Boko Haram’s terrifying brand of violence and oppression. Though the United States and its allies have intervened with drone reconnaissance and troops on the ground, these countries have been suffering from more than a restriction of freedom. A real, lasting impact of Boko Haram’s presence in poor African countries is stunted development in health, agriculture, and education sectors.
In northeastern Nigeria alone, Boko Haram has destroyed about 788 health facilities such as clinics and humanitarian camps. In the Borno province, 48 health workers (many international volunteers) were killed and over 250 were left injured from violent encounters with the radical insurgency. The spread of extremism has created a brain drain in the health sector of critically impoverished areas: Borno has lost nearly 35% of its healthcare professionals to other parts of Nigeria. Thus, the part of the country most affected by the crisis is the part left most helpless.
Similarly, the state of agriculture is affected by the wartime conditions. In peace, Cameroonian farmers could work their land and provide for their communities with relative plenitude. Now, Boko Haram militants have overrun these same rural towns and farmers have fled as refugees. Millions of people, displaced from the sources of their food, are struggling to relocate their livelihoods to safer areas. Fortunately, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization plans to donate supplies of additional seed to the countries of West Africa that now need to up production in the wake of the mass displacement. This issue, nevertheless, is far from resolved as long as Boko Haram squanders arable land.
Finally and most poignantly, Boko Haram has disrupted the state of education in villages that are just gaining momentum in the global campaign for literacy and primary school attendance. The group’s position against women in the classroom has put young girls and female instructors at risk. The governments of Nigeria and Cameroon pledge to protect their schools, but people in affected areas worry that schools will become literal battlegrounds.
- Should the international community intervene in civil wars on the basis of development?
- Is the War on Terror better understood as a War for Development?
- How can the developing world prepare for the devastating consequences of violence?
“‘They Set the Classrooms on Fire’ | Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria.” Human Rights Watch, 6 June 2017.
Becomes the New Frontline in Boko Haram War.” IRIN, 27 June 2017.
Felix Abrahams, et al. “How Boko Haram Is Devastating Health Services in North-East Nigeria.” The Conversation, 27 Mar. 2018.