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The Kindness of Strangers

The conflict between the Nigerian Army and the militants of Boko Haram, a brutal islamist group founded in 2002 and committed to establishing an Islamic State in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, has cost the lives of over 20,000 civilians, with 6,000 fatalities in 2015 alone. In addition to the appalling loss of life, some 2.6 million people have been displaced from their homes by the ongoing violence. Many have fled abroad - into Chad, Niger and Cameroon - but hundreds of thousands have moved to other parts of the country. This massive displacement has caused a major humanitarian emergency in what was already a poor, arid part of the country. Huge numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) lack access to clean water, medical facilities and shelter. Tens of thousands of children are not in school, many of the traumatised by the violence they have witnessed. Families have been torn apart by the violence, mourning their dead and the missing.

Yet there is cause for hope in all the bleakness. Up to 90% of those who have been forced to flee have found shelter with locals who have welcomed them into their homes and into their lives. They share their often meagre food supplies and water but also offer their compassion, their friendship and their help. According to many of the hosts, their hospitality is not unusual. They feel that it is their duty to take care of people in need. For Muslims, zakat, or giving alms and assistance to the poor and needy, is one of the five Pillars of Islam.

Chris de Bode travelled to Yola in eastern Nigeria where he was invited by the charity Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA) to meet and photograph some of the tens of thousands who have sought shelter here. He captures their lives alongside their host families who have extended their kindness to their needy compatriots. Speaking about his experience, Chris says that "the hospitality I have seen in Yola should be an example for similar situations worldwide. This series shows that with the help of others, people in any society are capable of supporting each other - without limitations or conditions, just the driving force of being human."
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