By Rev. Tom Furrer, SAMS Associate Missionary and President of Kateri Medical Services (KMS). KMS is an American nonprofit working in partnership with local Anglican dioceses in Nigeria. KMS runs full-time medical clinics serving the rural and urban poor. Currently, they have six full-time clinics in five different Nigerian dioceses.
Kateri Medical Services has worked in partnership with the Diocese of Kaduna since 2002 to help fund and facilitate medical care. KMS operates full-time medical clinics, mobile clinics to remote rural villages, and intensive medical outreach missions in rural areas. And in recent years, this work has expanded to serve refugee camps located near our clinics.
Why refugee camps? In local vocabulary, people say IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. They are not officially sponsored by any government. They are makeshift villages of squatters who have been driven from their homes by ethnic violence. In northern Nigeria, there is competition for land and resources in an ever-expanding population of rural poor farmers and nomadic cattle herders. The farmers are members of indigenous tribes and are mostly Christians. The nomadic cattle herders are members of the Fulani tribe and are mostly Muslims. Violence breaks out when Fulani cows eat crops of indigenous farmers — and when indigenous farmers kill Fulani cows in retribution for ruined crops. The cycle of violence inevitably expands to humans and entire villages.
In 2019 and 2020, this violence has reached a crescendo in Kaduna state. Many IDP camps have sprung up overnight in areas near our rural clinic there. This is the story of our mission of bringing medical care and humanitarian help to one of these IDP camps.
The residents of this IDP camp have been driven from their homes and farms. Their homes have been burned, many of the women have been raped. Men, women, and children have been killed in their homes while they slept. Those who escaped have nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever food they could carry. In this case, they settled near an elementary school. When the school children leave school, the refugees move into the classrooms to sleep. The Anglican Diocese of Kaduna has tried with limited resources to provide some basic humanitarian assistance to these hopeless people. The local government has turned a blind eye to their plight.
In June 2019, when Kateri Medical Services was conducting our routine mission, the Kaduna Diocese asked us to do a special outreach at this IDP camp, about five miles from the clinic. We conducted a one-day outreach during which we served about 300 people with basic medical care (see accompanying photos). Since then, one of the parish churches in Kaduna has adopted this camp to provide ongoing help.
In June of 2020, conditions in Nigeria and especially in these camps became even worse. Because of the COVID -19 pandemic and lockdowns, food shortages cause starvation. Because of the pandemic, American volunteers from KMS were not able to conduct our annual medical outreach missions. We devoted the funds we would have spent on the outreach missions to buy personal protective equipment for the Nigerian medical staff and patients. At the request of Kaduna Diocese, we also devoted some of these funds to buy food for refugees at the IDP camps (see accompanying photos).
Also, in the summer and fall of 2020, KMS received two generous grants from the SAMS World Relief Fund. KMS used these funds to buy food and medicine for the residents of these IDP camps. We are very grateful for our partnership with SAMS as we bring the love of Jesus (through evangelism, medical care, and food) to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria.