Nigeria – Crisis and Hope

I was heartbreakingly shocked and pleasantly surprised by recent news I heard about Nigeria. While this blog post ends on a lighter note, I warn you it’s going to start off very sad. But this is what’s happening in Nigeria right now. It’s important that we don’t burry the troubles that we may not experience ourselves. As per the theme of my blog, every place is complicated–both with its good and bad–and Nigeria is no different. So here we go my friends…

“We will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere.”

Did you know that right now Nigeria is facing an enormous hunger crisis? I sure didn’t. At least not until recently… It wasn’t until last week that I was aware of the dire situation going on in the country. A dire situation that only began to shed light a couple months back.

Let’s assume for a moment that everyone knows or has heard about the April 2014 abduction of 276 girls in the town of Chibok by militant Islamist extremists Boko Haram. The abductions created an instant outpour of anger and support, which started the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But like many social media campaigns, the urgency of the situation faded out and got buried under other news stories. It was only in October of this year, that 21 of those girls were released. Now again, Nigeria has popped back in the news feed with even more devastating circumstances.

The northeastern region of Nigeria has been suffering a seven-year-long Boko Haram insurgency against the Nigerian government. Currently, the Nigerian military has recovered most of the militant controlled territory, with the help of its neighbour countries–Chad, Cameroon and Niger. But as territories are being unravelled, so too are the devastations left by the insurgencies: thousands have been killed; millions are fleeing their homes; people have no options to plant food or buy food; allegations of wide-spread aid theft; illnesses; and starvation among children.

According to the Washington Post, “about a million and a half victims are living in makeshift camps, bombed-out buildings and and host communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations. An additional 2 million people, according to the United Nations, are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas.”

From the Washington Post article: “We will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere,” unless immediate assistance is provided, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. official focused on humanitarian aid for the region.

Needless to say, I was in shock by the news. How did it get to this point? Why are we only aware of this now? How can we–how can I–put more focus into what’s going on in the world as a whole, so that these issues are not neglected to the point of a humanitarian crisis?

A Space Odyssey

Ok now for a little bit of hope.

Did you know that Nigeria has a space program? I sure didn’t. Back in 2003, Nigeria announced the beginning of its space program, and since then has built up quite a resume in its exploration to space:

In 2011, launched three satellites in orbit including NigComSat-1R, built in China and has boosted internet and telecommunications services across the country (still orbiting!).
The Nigerians turned to Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology, which has built two earth-observation satellites, including the top-of-the-range NigeriaSat-2, which at the time of its launch was producing the highest resolution images of any UK-built satellite.
Nigeria already shares resources from its space assets, such as providing satellite imagery to Mali, and has supported the idea of an African Space Agency.

Why a focus on space? Good question. For this I turn to the International Business Times:

“The focus of our space program is on the socio-economic development of the country,” said Felix Ale, head of Media and Corporate Communications division, National Space Research and Development Agency. “The best way to fast-track development in any part of the world today is through the application of space science and technology, and that informed the decision of the federal government of Nigeria to come up with the space program.”

Needless to say I was (pleasantly) surprised when I first heard this news. It broke my own preconceptions of Nigeria as a developing country. And although the country is currently facing a dark crisis, news such as this gives hope to a brighter and expansive future.

From CNN, “This would be a landmark achievement for Nigeria and Africa, which will encourage the rest of Africa to get involved,” says Ale.

To learn more about Nigeria’s exploration into space, listen to the BBC Documentary podcast, Tomorrow’s Dreams!

Feature Image by Osioke Itseuwa, Unsplash.

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