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Parents Marry Off Girls For Food In Benue IDPs’ Camp



As hunger and diseases, especially diarrhoea and hernia hit Mbawa Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs’) Camp located in Daudu, Guma local government area of Benue State, parents have resorted to giving out their under-aged daughters in marriage for food stuff.

Already, eight persons have been confirmed dead from the biting hunger and ailments which took a worrisome dimension last weekend.

The camp chairman, Mr. Geofrey Torgenga, confirmed the death toll to LEADERSHIP yesterday during a visit to the facility located a few metres away from Daudu.

Torgenga said that the major diseases in the camp were diarrhoea and hernia, adding that all the victims died within five months.

He disclosed that IDPs were living at the mercies of churches and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The last time the state government supplied food items to the camp was on the eve of the presidential elections in February, Torgenga stated,

He said: “Since we came to this camp a year and five months ago, we have not received any items whether food or non-food materials from the government both at the state and federal level. We are here at the mercy of churches and donor agencies.”

It was learnt that some men have taken advantage of the hunger in the camp by giving parents bread and garri to marry their under-aged girls.

Torgenga admitted that a lot of parents had given out their girls, who fall within the age bracket of 10 and 14 years in marriage to men who can buy them garri and bread.

He said the neglect by both the federal and state governments is so pathetic that whole families of husbands, wives and children had to scavenge for food at public places on market days.

Other sources of raising income, the camp chairman observed was to fetch firewood from the fast depleting forest around the camp to sell, saying some IDPs had even taken to begging for alms.

He said that in the course of searching for food, a three- year-old boy, Nani Iorkyaa, went missing in March and was yet to be found.

Torgenga further said that due to the deplorable state of the shelter for the IDPs, it was difficult for them to sleep at night, especially when it rains.

Whenever it rains, Torgenga lamented that camp is always overflooded forcing the IDPs to stand and carry their children until the situation gets better.

When LEADERSHIP sought confirmation from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) camp commandant, Angela Omirigbe, she declined comment.

Omirigbe said that she was posted to the camp a week ago and was, therefore, not in the position to comment on issues affecting the IDPs.

One of the IDPs said that the Mbawa camp had been abandoned while the IDPs are left to their fate.

Another IDP, 65, Edward Nyam from Mbagwen community said he came to the camp in January 2018 with his family and resorted to begging and doing menial jobs to survive.

Nyam said that since he came to the camp, the government came only once to give the IDPs food, but commended churches and donor agencies for always coming to their plights.

The camp which has about 3,515 IDPs was established in January 2018.