The Boy Who Was Buried Alive and Survived

Safe at last: Ibrahim and Larama outside their family shelter.

Thirty-three-year-old Sarratou will never forget the day when dozens of heavily armed Boko Haram insurgents ambushed her village in Nigeria’s Borno State. Gunshots rang in their ears as she and three of her four children ran away towards the Cameroon border.

Her other son, 10-year-old Ibrahim, was with her husband caring for their cattle on the outskirts of the village. They too tried to flee, but there was no escape. “My husband got too tired. He was exhausted and could not continue running,” Sarratou says. “Boko Haram cut the throat of my husband, in front of our son.”

Ibrahim fell down on his father’s body in grief. Then, an insurgent struck his skull with a machete. He passed out.

“I could not move. They lifted me, they thought I was dead. They dug a hole and threw me in it and covered me with sand.”

Ibrahim’s grandmother and sister, 13-year-old Larama, returned to their village two days after the attack to search for him and his father. As they searched, Larama found something in the nearby bush.

“I am the one who unburied him” says Larama.

“I got tired, sat down under a tree and something with flies caught my attention. It was a human being.” She remembers that only part of Ibrahim’s head was surfacing above the sand.

“I was scared. I took courage. I tried to talk to him but he was just nodding. There was this wound on his head and bloodstains all over his face.”

Ibrahim's head scar

Larama dug her brother out of the sand and carried him on her back to the village. “I was tired but I had to manage. When people saw us, they asked where I was taking him. ‘I am taking him home,’ I said. I told them, ‘He is not dead – he is alive!’”

Ibrahim spent nearly five months in a hospital in Koza, Cameroon. Little by little, Ibrahim has been recovering. Even though his mother says that he has changed a lot – that he often looks sad and walks with a limp – he has started to smile again. But only time and care will tell how fully he will heal. A large scar on his head is a painful reminder of what he had to endure.

Ibrahim and his family now live in the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon. Opened in July 2013, it hosts some 56,000 Nigerian refugees. UNHCR provides food, water, shelter and other life-saving essentials to people at Minawo, as well as the other 1.2 million Nigerians who have been displaced by violence in north-east Nigeria.

Support UNHCR and held displaced Nigerians like Ibrahim


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