Frustration, hunger and fear continue to devastate IDPs in Benue who are trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives in camps after a failed promise by government to provide security and farming inputs. HEMBADOON ORSAR (Makurdi) who recently visited Abagena camp reports
“For me going home is the best thing, even though the time for planting some crops have passed, there is still time for other crops. I have tried going back but to no avail because our communities are still under siege,” says an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) and a father of six children, Mr Hyacinth Orjir who told LEADERSHIP Weekend his wife and children had been living from hand to mouth following the gross shortage of food in the Abegena camp of the IDPs in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Orjir from Yelwata in Guma Local Government Area was forced to flee his home after his community was attacked by gunmen suspected to be killer herdsmen.
“At first we thought the promise by the state and federal governments to provide enough security and farm inputs for us to go back and farm when the farming season commence will yield a positive result but up till date we can’t access our homes.
“How can a married man with many children be staying in this kind of environment for over six months? The food they are giving us here is not enough. How can 40 families be sharing one bag of rice?” Orjir further lamented.
Many of the stranded IDPs told our reporter that those who attempted to go home had not been heard from; a situation which frightened others from attempting to go home.
As hunger and starvation bite harder on the IDPs at Abagena camps, most of the residents reiterated their earlier call on the government to provide enough security for them to go back to their ancestral homes to continue their farming activities.
Heavily pregnant Ngufan Moris from Keana, Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State said, she and her husband were facing starvation as less portion of food gets to them. She said they were scared of returning home for fear of being killed.
While appreciating the effort of the government so far, she, however, said: “If we are in our communities, we can farm to feed and even sell to take care of ourselves.”
In her submission, a great grandmother who was looking malnourished with over 26 children in a room and other families, Mrs Ukohol Akumbur, said, because of hunger, she lost appetite and could not eat again till she fell sick.
“This is not how I was when I was in my village in Agwatashi in Nasarawa State but due to the living conditions here in the camp and with a lot of children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren life here in the camp is not easy for us, except we go back, the food we receive here cannot even go round the little children not to talk of adults. Please let the government provide security for us, we want to go back,” she cried out.
From the look of things, it seems the hope of the IDPs going back to their ancestral home is still a long way to come as the promised security by both the state and federal government has remained unfulfilled.
Our reporter who visited the Abagena camp sighted pupils in their emergency thatch classrooms attending classes.
Some of the IDPs who spoke to our correspondent said they were not only mourning the loss of their loved ones, but had to grapple with difficult living conditions.
It was also observed that the hygiene condition of the camp is nothing to write home about as about 50 to 40 families are cramped in one room apartment.
The only school in the camp is harbouring over 400 pupils with a few volunteer teachers for all the classes which ranged from one to four.
Some of the teachers who spoke to our reporter including Nyitamen Gideon and Ikyo Terwase lamented the absence of teaching and sitting materials and additional hands to enable the pupils learn well.
LEADERSHIP Weekend was told that the camp since it opened, had been operating without electricity and toilet facilities as most of the IDPs had resorted to open defecation which has worsened the poor sanitary state of the area.
Although there seems to be an emergency healthcare centre at the camp, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that out of the 69 birth recorded in the camp, almost all the women gave birth in the toilet while some of them were rushed to the nearby clinics.
Efforts by our Reporter to speak with the head of the clinic on the issue did not yield any positive result and he was not on sit.
Commandant of Abagena Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp Makurdi, Mr James Iorkyaa, disclosed that 51 persons have died in the camp in the past six months.
Iorkyaa, in an interview told LEADERSHIP Weekend that out of the 51 persons, one died of accident while the remaining 50 died of various ailments.
He, however, denied that the deaths were as a result of unhygienic living condition at the camp and hunger.
According to him, most of the IDPs contracted the diseases that killed them from their various places before coming to the camp, adding that some died of age related issues.
He also noted that the camp has recorded 69 births since its inception in January.
“We have recorded 69 births since the camp was opened this year. Out of the 69 births, we have one set of triplets and two sets of twins
He said some of the challenges the camp was experiencing was shortage of food stuff to carter for the high number of IDPs in the camp.
Iorkyaa, also noted that sometimes they were forced to share a 50kg bag of rice to 40 families.
“Another issue is the growing number of malaria cases particularly in children due to lack of mosquito nets,” the camp commandant said. “Though we had distributed the nets to the IDPs some have mismanaged and do not have them again.”
He called for organisations and well-meaning individuals to come to the side of the IDPs to alleviate the hardship they are passing through.
Also chairman of Abagena IDP camp, Mr Philip Usaatse, said all they needed was for government to provide security for them to enable them return to their various homes.
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