GRIN AND BEAR IT

As Trump hosts schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, his government mulls cutting international aid

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

With his signature thumbs up, US president Donald Trump welcomed two “Chibok schoolgirls” to the White House this week.

Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara are survivors of the militant group Boko Haram’s mass kidnapping of 276 young women and schoolgirls at a boarding school in northern Nigeria in April of 2014. Bishara and Pogu leaped from Boko Haram’s truck on the night the kidnapping, according a profile by People magazine.

They were among a few who managed to escape on the night of the kidnapping. In the years since, more than 100 of the hostages have been released in negotiations or escaped. The rest remain in captivity, many forced to marry to the group’s fighters. The kidnapping prompted international outrage and the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, which First Lady Michelle Obama helped popularize.

In an image released on the White House Facebook page as “photo of the day” on June 28, Trump and his daughter Ivanka pose with the young women in the Oval Office. The White House seems to have released no other statement on the visit yet.

With the help of the Jubilee campaign, Bishara and Pogu were brought to the US in August of 2014 to attend a Christian boarding school in the Oregon countryside, according to People. The Christian non-profit has characterized the Boko Haram insurgency as a targeted attack on Christians.

Having just graduated high school, Pogu and Bishara’s fate has been very different from that of their classmates in Nigeria. Even among those who escaped captivity, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and stigma in their communities because of their experiences.

USAID is one of the international aid organizations providing psycho-social support to the rescued girls. The visit comes weeks after Trump’s inaugural budget proposal, which cuts funding to international aid programs. Trump’s 2018 budget requires “greater efficiencies through organization and consolidation” of USAID’s programs, which may result in the elimination of programs vital to Pogu and Bishara’s former schoolmates.

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