Nigeria: child from Du Merci orphanage injured in fire at government orphanage

CSW has learned that one of the children who was seized during police raids on Du Merci orphanages in December 2019, suffered burns in a fire on 20 December in a government-run home.

CSW has learned that one of the children who was seized during police raids on Du Merci orphanages in Kano and Kaduna states in December 2019, suffered burns in a fire that broke out in the early hours of 20 December in the government-run Nasarawa Children’s Home in Kano State where they have been staying.

Moses Tarfa, 14, and another boy living in the orphanage, suffered first degree burns to the face, hands and legs when the fire broke out at around 2.00 am.  Both boys were rushed to the Nasarawa Hospital, located directly opposite the government-run home, where they received treatment. The fire was reportedly caused by a mosquito coil.

Moses Tarfa was among 27 children seized and placed in the Nasarawa Children’s Home following raids on the Du Merci Centre orphanages in Kano and Kaduna states by armed officers from the police force and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), that occurred on 25 and 31 December 2019, respectively.

Once in the Nasarawa Children’s Home, they were not permitted to leave the premises to attend their schools or church and have complained of being mistreated on account of their religious beliefs.  In April, Kano’s Commissioner for Women’s Affairs finally agreed to release seven of the older children. However, 17 minors remain in the government-run establishment, along with a 30-year-old who volunteered to remain behind to ensure their welfare.

The Du Merci Centres were founded by Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa and his wife Mercy in 1996 to care for abandoned children in the Christian district of Sabon Gari in Kano state with the Kaduna state branch opening later. The centres provided accommodation for these children, who view the Tarfas as their parents and who are educated and cared for until they can live successful independent lives. The orphanages also accommodated young women who became pregnant out of wedlock, until they gave birth, reconciling them whenever possible with parents who had rejected them due to social stigma.

A local source said: “The news that one of the Du Merci children, along with another boy at Nassarawa Children’s Home, have suffered first degree burns should be a cause for alarm. The world needs to know that the Kano state government’s assurances that the children’s safekeeping would be guaranteed are simply not true. The Du Merci children should be returned to their home, to the adults they consider to be their parents and who love them. The plight of the other children at the home must not be overlooked. If Moses had not been harmed, the risk to other children in Nasarawa Children’s Home would not have come to light. Please pray for their safety.”

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The removal of the children from the Du Merci orphanages was deeply distressing for them, and the continued separation of these minors from the only family they have known is causing further trauma. The Kano state government said it would care for these children, yet it continues to restrict their rights to education, religion or belief, and family life. Moreover, the terrible burns suffered by Moses and the other young boy illustrate that they are in fact at risk of harm. We urge the Kano state government to bring an end to their ordeal and to return these children to the Du Merci Centre, where their welfare can be guaranteed. We also call for an urgent investigation into the wellbeing of all of the children in the Nasarawa Children’s Home to ensure safeguards are put in place to prevent any recurrence of this shocking incident.”