Bulama, a teenager from Yobe State is helping communities recover from extreme violence and hunger.

How a Teenager took on the fight against malnutrition

Bulama became an expert on nutrition in his community in Nigeria

By Action Against Hunger

Jan 17 2019

Think back to when you were sixteen years old.

For many fortunate people, the biggest worries as a teenager were probably about getting good grades in school, making friends, or getting a job to have more spending money.

But Bulama, a young man from Nigeria, has had to grow up fast.

Bulama’s mother died in childbirth and his father passed away just three months later. He was raised by his eldest sister, Yajelo Lawan Taibu, along with four other siblings. Yajelo is a mother to eight of her own children, and often refers to Bulama as her oldest son. At sixteen years old, he became a victim of war after Boko Haram destroyed his village. Bulama and his family had to run for their lives, leaving everything they had behind them. Desperate for safety, they escaped to Borno State, but the conflict soon engulfed communities there as well. In Yobe State, on the outskirts of Damaturu town, Bulama and Yajelo and the rest of their family eventually found refuge. They received an allotment of land, where they live today. 

Despite a childhood of tragedy and conflict, Bulama's will to have a positive impact on his community was evident when he decided to volunteer at the Action Against Hunger screening centre.

BECOMING A NUTRITION EXPERT

When Bulama and his sister settled in Yobe State, he soon became aware of the Action Against Hunger health centre in his village. Mothers and children who had fled violence, now relied on the Kukareta Health Centre for support with nutrition and health services. 

Curious and eager to learn, he visited the centre, and saw the Action Against Hunger nutrition team in action. He decided he wanted to help. He wanted to give as much of his time and effort as possible to help provide life-saving treatment to malnourished children. After receiving training, Bulama became a Community Nutrition Volunteer, working to support nutrition programmes for displaced communities in his town.

Working between six to eight hours a day, almost every day of the week, his dedication was clear. He screened children for malnutrition and other illnesses as they arrived at the health centre; administered appetite tests; supported the pharmacist in dispensing medicines; distributed ready-to-use therapeutic food to children who have been diagnosed with acute malnutrition and admitted into the outpatient nutrition programme; and managed crowd control.

Bulama is a part of the Kukareta Health Centre team and his colleagues speak glowingly about him. “I joined the Health Centre three years ago and found Bulama." said Ezekiel, Buluma’s supervisor at the health centre. "He is very hardworking. His support is pivotal. In fact, the days when he is not here are challenging. I love that he is such a good communicator."

His love for nutrition as well as his passion and ambition has opened doors for him. 

“Bulama is one of our most active Community Volunteers,” said Fatima, our Nutrition Officer in Damaturu said. “In 2017, we invested in increasing his skills. We sent him to another one of our nutrition programmes in a different region of Nigeria, Jigawa State, for an intensive training and learning exchange visit.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

The trip to Jigawa State allowed Bulama to gain even more skills and experience in a different environment. The training has added more fuel to Bulama’s love for public health. With the support of his sister, he has applied to the Damaturu Federal Polytechnic School, and he will soon begin his studies there where he hopes to obtain a degree in public health.

Despite living in one of the most hostile areas of Nigeria, Bulama managed to complete his high school education and have a postive impact on his community. He continues to work at the health centre in his village and is a shining example of a true humanitarian leader.

ACTION AGAINST HUNGER’S WORK IN NIGERIA

We continue to work in an extremely challenging environment. In January, 2019, over 50,000 men, women and children were displaced by violence.

In response to the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria ─ and the threat of famine in Borno State and Lake Chad region ─ Action Against Hunger has scaled up its programmes dramatically. In 2017, we reached 2.8 million people across Yobe, Jigawa, and Borno States. We improved the lives of displaced people and host communities with nutrition and health services; clean water and sanitation to reduce malnutrition and diseases; emergency cash transfers to help displaced people purchase food or meet other urgent needs; and longer-term food security initiatives.

Images: Action Against Hunger Nigeria