The continued presence of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country, especially in the North, signposts the failure of successive governments since 2009 to rein in the insurgency by Boko Haram terrorists in the North East and, lately, the herders-farmers conflict in the North Central and the rampaging bandits killing Nigerians in Zamfara State, in particular, and the North West states sharing boundaries with Zamfara in general.
The above-mentioned sources of insecurity, along with some longstanding sectarian crises among some communities, have turned Nigeria into arguably the country with the highest number of IDPs in the world, resulting in humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportion. Reports indicate that most of the IDP camps are overcrowded and have become breeding ground for communicable diseases, prostitution, crime and other social vices while some of the officials that are supposed to cater for these displaced Nigerians have been accused of diversion of aids and all manner of corrupt practices.
By last year’s account, there were an estimated 1.7 million IDPs in over 321,580 households across six states of the North East, with 40 per cent residing in camps in urban areas. When you add this to the number of persons displaced by conflicts in the North Central and the banditry in the North West, the number surpasses two million.
These large-scale displacements and the attendant humanitarian crisis no doubt pose a huge challenge to Nigerian authorities.
Conditions in most IDP camps are reportedly bad and deteriorating. Affected persons face hunger and starvation, lack of access to health care, poor shelter and living conditions, sexual exploitation and all manner of undignified living conditions.
Children are most affected as they face such difficult life situations at such tender ages. As a result thousands of them die of malnutrition and child killer diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, measles, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, tuberculosis and diphtheria.
In many cases, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the governmental body whose mandate is to respond to natural and man-made disasters, takes supplies toIDPcamps, but the scale of the problem is overwhelming the agency and many of the camps depend on the generosity of villagers, certain philanthropic individual and organisations and some local and international non-government organisations.
These have done a lot to assist the displaced persons and alleviate their suffering, but their overall effort is only a scratch on the surface as these hapless Nigerians who, having been removed from their land and sources of livelihood, need a lot of support to regain their footing.
Consequently, government cannot abdicate this responsibility to philanthropic individuals, non-governmental organisations and donor countries. That would be tantamount to reducing the IDPs’ wellbeing to a throw of the dice.
As a newspaper, we call on governments at all levels to do more to improve the conditions of the IDPs in their camps across the country. Government should lighten their burden by ensuring adequate feeding and medical care at the IDP camps till peace is restored to their communities. Also, they should be given skill acquisition trainings and start-up capital so that they can engage in helpful economic activities and attain some level of self sustenance in the period of their exile.
Similarly, the security agencies should intensify their operations and root out the terrorists, bandits and other troublemakers so that displaced persons can return home. The longer the conflicts last, so will the frustrations of the IDPs. Already some of them have started to protest their condition. On Monday December 24, 2018, IDPs taking refuge in Tsafe town of Tsafe local government area in Zamfara State staged a violent demonstration to protest the wanton killings in the area and the failure of government to restore peace so that they could return to their homes.
While we do not support violence of any sort, we wish to remind governments at all levels that they should not allow IDPs to take matters into their own hands before they can act. The state and federal governments must be responsive to IDPs’ needs and also punish officials who divert aids meant for them.
Most importantly, all hands must be on deck to stop all the violence in the country so that there will be no Nigerian in the IDP camps.
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