Featured Photo credit: Flickr
Along with many other displaced people from major conflict zones in Borno state of Nigeria, Falmata lives with her mother in this small seemingly peaceful town, west of the state. She is only six months, and perhaps lucky to have been born a little later to the heat of the conflict that has killed more than 25,000 people and displaced about 1.8million others in this region of the country.
She wasn’t here to witness the horror that drove like whirl-hell in this town: the mass slaughter of men, women and their children; the mass displacement of a people, who once lived so fondly and proudly of their community. The darkest of these days was Tuesday, September 17, 2013, a day when more than a hundred and sixty people were butchered like goats and laid for exhibition for the Nigerian army’s delight on the single road that led to Maiduguri, the capital city of the state. It took almost 3years before many indigenes of this town could garner courage and return to their once beautiful town—including Falmata’s parents. As for Falmata, even though she missed the dark era narrowly, she now lives in the wreckages created by it.
Sometime in early February 2017, Falmata suffered from eye infection. Few more days were passing and the plague in her eyes seemed not to be passing with the days. Being ‘Internally Displaced’ means being overtly dependent on everyone for everything, be it government or NGOs. It was at night when a family friend rushed to Falmata’s mother and gave her some kind of medications in bottle to treat her child’s ailment. With gratitude, she collected the bottle and unleashed some of the contents into her child’s eyes. All she could notice was Falmata wouldn’t open her eyes afterward and wouldn’t stop crying all night.
The next morning, she saw clearly what had happened to Falmata. In distress, she bundled her poor child to a small health facility run by one of the NGOs in the state. Already living in full regrets of her grievous deeds, falmata’s mother couldn’t stop aching, her pain was palpable.
‘What happened to your child, madam? What did you put into your daughter’s eyes?’ a medical staff on duty asked,
But the poor mother didn’t know. Indeed, she didn’t know what it was. Bad enough, she couldn’t have seen what concoction or chemical was inside the bottle.
Since all electric poles in this town were brought down by the conflict, people here rarely bothered about what they do not see at night, after all everyone is now used to almost three years of darkness, hoping one day government would help fix electricity and communication in the town.
The doctors did everything they could without delay but concluded there was high probability that Falmata’s eyes may not see again, the best bet was a partial blindness, and that sounded fair enough. Falmata was kept in the hospital for about two days, during which period the nurses kept coming to irrigate her eyes with some special kind of water in a transparent polyethylene bag. On the third day, one of the doctors spoke to Falmata’s mother about referring her daughter to another health facility to be seen by an Ophthalmologist.
About a week later, Falmata was brought back to the hospital from the referral facility. How Falmata’s eyes were left undamaged by the corrosive substance was indeed a tale too mysterious to behold.
To the doctors and nurses, they felt Falmata must have instinctively shut her eyes while the mother had tried to apply the droplets causing such spillage on her face as in the picture below.
Another argument is, at least small quantity of the corrosive substance must have entered Falmata’s eyes before shutting her eyes by reflex. Although, Falmata’s relatives never brought the sample bottle to the hospital, claiming it was destroyed or disposed. Scientifically, the eye produces lacrimal fluid which protects it from foreign intruders, BUT BY ALL LOGIC NOT AGAINST SUCH A CORROSIVE SUBSTANCE.
To others, Falmata’s story may have a straight forward explanation, but can we also explain why a poisonous snake would cuddle round a six month old girl and crawl off leaving the poor child unhurt and the same snake would strangulate and inoculate an older being with its bizarre venom?
In the second part of this story, Falmata was discharged but was soon brought back hunted by another shadow of the wreckages from the conflict