Displaced by internal crisis, largely caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently seeking refuge in different camps across the country especially in the North-east are facing life of misery as revealed in a survey, conducted by NOIPolls. CHIKA OKEKE delves into the report and captures its essence.
There is palpable fear over the rising cases of anomalies in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) camps across the Northern states. Indeed, there have been different reports which revealed the under-reported lives of these IDPs with a call on the federal government to salvage the situation to avoid further international mockery.
Reflectively, the activities of the Boko Haram sect hit the roof between 2009 and 2016 in the Northern states of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe Kano and other states and, spilled over to neighbouring countries of Cameroun, Chad and Niger.
The attacks led to the death of many Nigerians with a conservative estimate indicating that no fewer than 40,000 people may have been killed while hundreds of millions of properties destroyed with many people forced out of their homes and communities.
A 2016 report by Internally Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) revealed that about 2,066,783 IDPs are seeking refuge in about 13 states across the country. Scarcity of food leading to death, high child mortality rate, stunted children, sex trade, illicit drugs consumption, forced labour and prostitution boomed in the camps.
Moved by the plight of IDP’s, NOIPolls, an indigenous public opinion polling and research institution, which has been championing public opinion research in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, embarked on a poll as a way to conduct a situational assessment of the Internally Displaced Persons in the North East.
Basically, the survey which highlighted the controversies surrounding the general welfare of IDP’s in the North-East was conducted between July 4, and July 29, 2016. Report indicated that the collation of data captured 400 IDPs and 15 key stakeholders, who have been working with IDP’s and providing various kinds of assistance and support to the IDPs in camps and host communities. The survey captured key necessities as food, water, sanitary condition, health care, rising mortality, sexual abuse, discrimination, diversion of relief materials, official versus unofficial camps.
The study revealed that about 85 per cent of IDPs do not have access to adequate food, leaving only about 15 per cent who claimed they have access to food. Most of the IDPs, the report revealed, feed on staple diet which is not enough to nourish their bodies especially for babies, children, lactating mothers and the elderly. The findings also highlight that an overwhelming 93 per cent of IDPs in unofficial camps lack access to food, compared to their counterparts in the official camps, where only about 71 per cent stated that they do not have access to food.
About 99 per cent of IDPs in Borno and 87 per cent in Yobe are worst hit in terms of limited access to food. These findings corroborate the recent reports by the UN and World Food Programme (WFP) that about 4.5 million people are in need of food aid in the North-East.
The WFP’s Regional Director estimated that 65,000 people in newly liberated towns in Borno and Yobe are facing ‘famine-like conditions’.
Although, providing firewood is the responsibility of local government areas and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) as stipulated in the MOU signed between FGN and state governments; yet the poor coordination of firewood reportedly leave thousands of IDPs without food for two to three days especially among lactating mothers, children and the elderly.
Based on the survey, about 85 per cent of IDPs described the quality of food as poor which led to continued malnutrition, stunted growth, periodic infections or prolonged diseases, and deaths especially among the children, the elderly, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.
It was also discovered in some camps that officials only prepare decent meals on special days, when they would have been informed that visitors, international delegates, senior government officials would be visiting the IDP’s.
A Senior CSO Member in Borno State, Alan Charles noted that there is a lot uncertainty on the availability of food adding that there were cases of recorded deaths in Bama camp Borno due to lack of food.
“For five days here in Bama, the death rate on a daily basis was about 21,” he said.
Like food, water is like gold at the camps. 90 per cent of IDP’s in Borno State decried poor access to clean water. Only three per cent of the IDPs in official camps had access to clean water, while unofficial camps had about 26 per cent of IDPs who said they had access to clean water, the NOIPolls revealed.
It is observed that lack of diesel to pump water from the boreholes also contributed to scarcity of water in the camps even as IDPs queued for long hours to access the little quantity of water available in camps.
Another worrisome trend is that the numbers of available boreholes in the camps are utterly insufficient in relation to the population of IDPs as Bama camp in Borno state with an estimated population of 26,000 IDPs has only two boreholes.
As far as the move to provide education for the children of the IDPs is concerned, about 28 per cent of the IDPs indicated that educational facilities are non-existent in the camps while only five per cent claimed that they have good access to education and educational facilities.
Further findings highlighted that IDPs in unofficial camps and host communities had more access to education and educational facilities.
Access to healthcare in most camps is very pathetic as almost seven in 10 IDPs which is approximately 69 per cent indicated inaccessible healthcare, with only 31% affirming access to healthcare.
Most of the camps could not boast of decent medical personnel and facilities to provide basic first-aid in case of emergency. This overwhelming lack of proper healthcare personnel and facilities in the IDP camps result to several avoidable deaths as seen in the case of a number of malnourished children.
There are insufficient toilets for the IDPs forcing many of them to share the same toilet which could lead to the spread of infectious diseases.
An unnamed senior member of Borno civil society coalition painted the ugly scenario in the report of how a woman who put to bed laid on the floor with the baby while feeding the baby with N30 sachet milk.
An IDP in Bakassi Camp, Maiduguri, Mustapha Ali said, “Most of us do not know where to go when we are sick because the health facility in the camp is grossly inadequate to carter for our health challenges and so we have to seek alternative means. The doctors are in most cases away and even when they are around, they give us the same kind of drugs for all ailments.”
In Borno, 87 per cent claimed that the sanitary condition in their camps was poor as against 78 per cent in Yobe and 69 per cent in Adamawa.
In Adamawa state, a senior member of civil society coalition said, “When you get to some of these camps, the smell that comes from there will make anyone know that there are very poor sanitary conditions.Most times, we have to wait for long before having access to the toilet and because of the poor sanitary condition, we are exposed to mosquitoes, especially women and children and we have inadequate mosquito nets” an IDP in Arabic College Camp Maiduguri, said.
Another critical issue that is highlighted was sexual abuse, exploitation and rape taking place in both official and unofficial camps. This abuse is mainly perpetrated by unscrupulous camp officials and members of host communities to even older IDPs. According to the survey, the IDPs confirmed that the abuse was perpetrated by 66 per cent of camp official, 28 per cent from host communities, and six per cent by older members of the camps.
There are also evidences of debased practices in camps such as the practice of “Sex for food’ and “sex for freedom of movement” in and out of the camps. Some female IDPs offered themselves as sex objects to camp officials in exchange for food or money to purchase food and basic female sanitary requirements.
The findings indicated that young people in the camps and members of the host communities are addicted to consumption of illicit drugs, prostitution, and petty crime with rising cases of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS.
Some IDPs have fallen prey to unscrupulous members of host communities who capitalized on their plight to force them into early marriages and even kidnap them for child labour.