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We’re dying of hunger, diseases, cry Benue IDPs

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We’re dying of hunger, diseases, cry Benue IDPs
  • Ortom’s committed to their welfare – SEMA

 

Challenges faced by the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Mbawa IDPs Camp in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State have been compounded by acute hunger and diseases. They are also faced with inadequate accommodation. The IDPs were forced to take refuge in the camp after herdsmen believed to be of Fulani extraction attacked their Mbawa community. Our correspondent, who visited the camp yesterday to ascertain how the IDPs are faring, saw most of them wearing long faces in anguish. The IDPs complained that government had neglected then in the last 16 months.

They said hunger, diseases and poor shelter, among others, had been their major challenge. According to them, about eight persons have died as a result of hunger and disease. But the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Emmanuel Shior, described as untrue the allegation by the IDPs that the government had neglected them. Shior said government had approved the next round of distribution of assorted relief materials to the IDPs scheduled to commence today to meet their satisfaction. He said: “Governor Samuel Ortom is deeply committed to the plight of the IDPs. He has not neglected them as they have alleged. As I speak, the governor has directed me to distribute another round of relief materials to the IDPs to improve their well-being. “We know we cannot satisfy their needs at once. At no time we had intended to abandon the IDPs.

We will continue to support and take care of them.” However, the IDPs claimed they managed to survive with their children through dint of hard labour from farmers who employed them to work in farms as well as begging from traders in the markets in and outside the local government.

The Chairman of the Mbawa IDPs Camp, Geoffrey Torgenga, said the camp had been hit with diarrhoea, hernia and cough. According to him, life has not been easy with the IDPs. He said they were only living at the mercy of churches and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Torgenga said that the last time relief materials were supplied to them was on the eve of the presidential election held this year. According to him, some of the IDPs raise little money through the sale of firewood from the fast depleting forest around the camp. Torgenga said that in the course of searching for food, a three-yearold boy, identified simply as Nani, got missing in March.

He said the boy was yet to be found. The chairman added that owing to the deplorable conditions the IDPs were being sheltered, it was nearly impossible to sleep at night, especially during rainfall. He appealed to the state government to consider them in the next round of the distribution of relief materials.

Torgenga added that life was not easy for them as their homes were still being occupied by the Fulani militants, leaving them with no option but to remain in the camps. When our correspondent approached a SEMA official, Angela Omirigbe, she declined comments. According to her, the camp just received attention from government. She said: “I was posted to this camp a week ago and I am not in a position to comment on any issue affecting the camp.” Other displaced persons, who bared their minds to our correspondent, also lamented neglect by government.

It was learnt that the camp, which has about 3,515 IDPs, was established in January 2018. It has a population of 930 children. Our correspondent also visited the Abagana IDP Camp. The Assistant Camp Commandant, Oliver Ijir, listed accommodation and feeding problems as some of the major challenges confronting the IDPs.Ijir, however, appreciated efforts by the state government in addressing other problems facing the IDPs. Meanwhile, following complaints of excessive hunger and diseases which have resulted to the death of at least eight IDPs at the Mbawa Camp, SEMA yesterday commenced distribution of assorted relief materials.

The relief materials were distributed to IDP camps in Logo, Makurdi, Guma, Gwer West and Kwande local government areas. Apparently miffed by the condition of the IDPs, Ortom yesterday directed the SEMA Executive Secretary, Shior, to distribute assorted relief materials to the victims. Addressing journalists at the SEMA headquarters in Makurdi, Shior said the items included both food and non-food materials which included bags of maize, millet, garri, rice and palm oil. Shior expressed concern over the inability of the IDPs to return to their ancestral homes as their villages are still under attack. The SEMA boss noted that Governor Ortom was not relenting on dialogue with President Mohammadu Buhari on how to address the challenge of insurgency and insecurity in rural communities of the state.

He said: “Some places in the villages are still not safe, there are still pockets of attacks so when some of the IDPs tried to go back to check if their places were safe so that they could go back, they met the attacks and ran to the camps again.” Shior regretted that the Federal Government had not been able to pay the N10 billion promised the state for the reconstruction of communities damaged by the militant. He added that if the funds were released, it would have been channelled towards facilitating safe return the displaced persons to their homes. “We are yet to receive the money. You are all witnesses to the fact that the President, through the Vice President, promised construction of resettlement homes in Guma, Logo, Makurdi and Agatu. He also talked about N10 billion that will be provided for this purpose, but up till now, we have not seen it.”

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