Christians denied vital aid as famine sweeps sub-Saharan Africa

Bishop William Naga said Christians faced discrimination in camps. Open Doors

Christians in sub-Saharan Africa are being denied access to vital aid as a famine affecting millions sweeps across the region, according to the charity Open Doors. 

In Nigeria, where Christian refugees have fled the terror of Boko Haram, Christians have reportedly been discriminated against in refugee camps and denied food because of their faith.

The jihadist group began its reign of terror, aimed at eradicating Christianity in Nigeria, in 2009. Bishop William Naga was displaced from his home in Gowoza, Nigeria by Boko Haram in 2014.

Naga told Open Doors: 'The governor did his best when the Christians had to flee in 2014 and 2015. But when the care of the camps was handed over to other organisations, the discrimination started. They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians.'

Not receiving welcome as the main camps, Christians began to form their own alternatives. John Gwamma, the chairman of an informal Christian camp, said: 'We have started informal, purely Christian camps because Christians were being segregated in the formal camps. They had not been given food, or allowed to go to church. There is a term called "arne", meaning pagan. Meaning, you are pagan and not a Muslim, and as long as you are not a Muslim, we don't like you to stay together with us.'

Some faced such dire circumstances that they were forced to eat leaves to survive. Open Doors has partnered with local churches to provide necessary aid such as food and blankets to thousands of families.

One displaced Christian, Mary Charles, was grateful for the support. She said: 'We had to flee Boko Haram because they didn't allow us to go to our farm. We had no drinking water and we didn't have anything to eat. I thank God for this food aid and I thank the people who brought it. We now have food that we can give to our children.'

According to Open Doors, Christians are 'frequently denied access to community resources, such as clean water, health clinics and higher education'. Nigeria is ranked #12 on the Open Doors World Watch List, listing the countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.