The ones left behind

A photo series on persons whose loved ones have gone missing during the armed conflict in the North-East of Nigeria

  • Hadiza keeps her sister’s picture by her side constantly. Her sister Kaltum disappeared, with her husband and their children, in 2012. Hadiza’s prayer beads help her cope with the doubt concerning their fate.
    Prichilla ABSI/ ICRC
  • “She was very talkative, went to school; she was a good girl, just a normal child,” says Mustapha of his 14-year-old daughter who went missing four years ago. He has struggled to survive since she was taken, not sleeping much and is always thinking about her. Recent news about her being alive in Chad has given him a flicker of hope that she will be found soon.
    Sam SMITH/ICRC
  • An irreplaceable gap was left in Alhaji Boruma’s family when two of their children disappeared from school. Alhaji Boruma still regrets sending his children to school that day. With his wife, they pray for their safe return.
    Prichilla ABSI/ ICRC
  • 35-year-old Kaltum still feels indescribable pain over the disappearance of her 14-year-old daughter who went missing eight years ago. “I hardly sleep, but I feel it in my heart that my daughter is still alive, I still have hope.”
    Sam SMITH/ICRC
  • Both women lost a niece and daughter when Falmata went missing. “My daughter has the same tribal marks my sister and I have," Falmata’s mother recalls. She still clings fiercely to the hope that her daughter will be found especially after receiving news that she might still be alive.
    Prichilla ABSI/ ICRC
  • Sanda’s son Grema was a student at the Federal Polytechnic College in Damaturu. They had both fled from Damaturu to Kukareta for safety in 2013 before the village was also attacked and they lost sight of each other. Sanda does not believe reports that his son might have died. He copes with the void by praying, busying himself with his kolanut business and surrounding himself with friends.
    Prichilla ABSI/ICRC
  • Yakolo believes that her persistence in prayer will bring her family home soon. Five of her family members disappeared in 2014 with news resurfacing about them in early 2018. The news gives Yakolo fresh motivation to get through the day.
    Prichilla ABSI/ICRC
  • 45-year-old Ahmadu was separated from his wife and children in October 2017 when his village was attacked in Mubi LGA, Borno state. He strongly believes that he will see them one day.
    Prichilla ABSI/ ICRC
  • Manu’s wife and three children went missing in 2014. Manu, fondly nicked named “Manu Mai Ruwa” because he supplies water, busies himself with his farm and herd of cows which his children used to help him with. Through prayers, Manu continues to hope that his family will be found.
    Prichilla ABSI/ ICRC
  • “My son used to help me take care of the livestock; since his disappearance, I have a huge burden on my shoulders and I do everything myself.” (Manu, Mai Ruwa)
    Prichilla ABSI/ICRC
12 March 2020

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) works with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to reunite family members who have been separated during the armed conflict of Lake Chad. Providing knowledge about the fate of those who have gone missing during situations of armed violence is a core part of the ICRC's work. Presently, over 21,600 cases of missing persons have been reported in Nigeria and are actively being handled. This series of pictures depict persons who have no knowledge about their loved ones' whereabouts.

Have a look to understand how they manage to survive in their everyday lives with this void.