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When twin scourges of hunger, disease ravage IDPs’ camps




Thursday, August 25, 2016 saw hundreds of hungry and angry women barricade the Maiduguri-Kano/Jos Road.

There were relocated Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) protesting alleged shortage of food in their Arabic Teachers College Camp, Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State.

Some of the protesters alleged food had been in short supply or diverted by officials while calling for the removal of the Central Feeding Committee.

“We’re hungry; we don’t want any Feeding Committee again because they aren’t giving us quality food. Give us our food directly,” a woman, who identified herself as Aisha Marte, said.

The intervention of the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Usman Durkwa was the saving grace as the protesters agreed to disperse having ignored appeals by the police to do so.

Durkwa, who was returning from another IDPs camp in the state capital to supervise the feeding of the displaced persons there, announced immediate suspension of the Central Feeding Committee at the Arabic Teachers College camp and introduction of household feeding.

Sixty-one year old Mallam Abubakar Shuwa, an Internally Displaced Person from Marte, Borno State was once a proud father of four beautiful girls, then

Boko Haram insurgents struck.

But before they overran the town, he managed to escape with his family.

Now, the once ebullient father seems perpetually downcast due to incapacitation as a result of the insurgency. Hear him, “It is unfortunate that as a father of four grown up female children, I don’t have control over any of them any more.

“They now roam about the camp mingling with bad boys.

It is so bad that two of my daughters got pregnant recently. That is the result of hardship, particularly hunger and other lacks that pervade the IDP camps”, he said.

At present, the twin scourges of hunger due to lack of food and disease especially Sexually Transmitted Diseases spread through prostitution are ravaging the IDP camps in the north east.

The hunger situation got so bad that Senate leader, Senator Ali Ndume recently warned that the prevailing crisis of malnutrition in the area, he said, was capable of causing a larger war than the one being wedged against the insurgents.

Ndume, while reacting to the challenges in IDPs camps in a session with journalists at his Government Reservation Area (GRA) residence, Maiduguri, said, government alone couldn’t win the war against malnutrition, hunger and poverty in the state.

“I have said several times that after winning the war against insurgents which has been successful, there is the second war, which is very serious; like more or less invisible, that government has to fight,” he said.

The fight, according to him, is against hunger, malnourishment and poverty “affecting tens of thousands of IDPs from liberated communities in Borno.

“Only God knows what is happening in the seven liberated local government areas hit by hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

If you go to Cameroonian border communities of Banki, Kumshe and Gulumba; there are some areas I understand the malnutrition and hunger have set in and they are killing people.

“So this is a bigger war that everybody must be involved in.”

Similarly, House of Representatives Joint Committee on IDPs and Human Rights led by a former National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Sani Soro, and Sule Tankarkar visited Borno on a fact-finding mission on the poor living condition of IDPs in the North East and Borno in particular.

Having witnessed the agonies IDPs are encountering, the delegation couldn’t but recommend the establishment of the proposed North-East Development Commission.

The team visited Damboa township IDPs camp being one of the largest camps outside the state capital where they addressed the IDPs, officials and security agencies.

“There must be continuous supply of water, sanitation and other hygiene related materials in place before the rest of the IDPs came out of the Sambisa forest and other places of captivity.”

The wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari has also taken the battle against malnutrition to Maiduguri, with the distribution of food items to over 4,000 IDPs, mostly women and children.

The president’s wife who was represented by the wife of Borno State governor, Hajiya Nana Shettima, said “it is time for everyone in the country to get involved in the fight against malnutrition in order to prevent any more deaths.

“In the meantime, there are reports of increasing sexually transmitted diseases and prostitution in most of the IDPs camps across Borno.”

An IDP from Gwoza Local Council, Mallam Idrissa Usman Izge, said, “many IDPs might have been infected with Human Immune Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies because we don’t have money to buy condom and the state government refused to provide us with such since we were camped here in Maiduguri. What bothers us so much in the camps is the issue of rape and shockingly, it is women who rape the few men available.”

Meanwhile, with the Federal Government’s resolve to intensify provision of food and medicines to the IDP camps, there is hope that the situation will soon improve.

While Durkwa announced the suspension of the Feeding Committee at Arabic Teachers College camp, he said each family would now receive foodstuff from the state government and cook for themselves.

Also, Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima has directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) North-East Zonal Office in Maiduguri and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to take over the feeding of the 1.6 million IDPs in the resettlement camps and satellite centres across Borno with a view to addressing malnutrition and health issues.

The North-East Coordinator of the agency, Mallam Mohammed Kanar, who spoke during the flag off distribution and presentation of relief items to officials of the SEMA for onward delivery to IDPs in the state, said the gesture was to address hunger and malnutrition.

Meanwhile, governors of the North East states affected by Boko Haram insurgency resolved, last week, to shut down the IDP camps at various locations in the states by May 29  next year.

Shettima who disclosed this after a meeting with United States Secretary of State, said: “On the issue of resettlement, the bulk of the IDPs are from

Borno State, a situation that has swelled the population of Maiduguri from two million to three million now.

And where there is a will, there is always a way.

“Believe me, by May 29 next year, we want our people to go back to their homes. We are going to marshal whatever resources, with or without international support, to see what we can do to restore the dignity of our people. We cannot wait for eternity for manna from the international community to develop our communities.

“The biggest IDP camp is in Kenya. The Kenyan government has finally summoned the political courage to close down that camp.

“In most of the camps, there are challenges of early marriage, child prostitution, drug abuse, gangsterism, malnutrition and diseases and these must end.”

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