Maiduguri, Nigeria – Cash is not king at Bakasi’s internally displaced persons (IDP) camp.
With little money to hand at the best of times, and the food aid often not what they want, bartering has become an alternative to money for the more than 21,000 Nigerians languishing at the dusty IDP camp in the country’s northeast.
Many of the IDPs have resorted to swapping the little they have for their preferred goods, whether it’s herbs and spices to make soup, groundnut to help a breastfeeding mother produce milk or laundry detergent for a family’s clothes.
A small bundle of firewood can be traded for milk. An unwanted bowl of baby fish can get you cooking oil. Peanuts are always in high demand.
“We don’t get money, that’s why we do this,” said Umaru Usman Kaski, hoping to trade a small bundle of firewood worth about 50 naira ($0.139) to support his family of eight.
While many would prefer money, cash distribution in Maiduguri, a former stronghold of the Boko Haram movement, is fraught with risk.
Around two million people are believed to have been forced from their homes since 2009 when the armed group launched their rebellion.
The UN has called the situation “one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises”.
Reports of corruption in the humanitarian crisis relief efforts are rife. Those involved, such as government officials, aid workers and soldiers, are alleged to skim from the top before distributing aid.
Many of those responding to the crisis are also concerned that with the grim economic prospects in the near future, millions of people will become dependent on aid.
Until then, Nigeria’s displaced are finding their own ways to balance what they receive with their needs.