Plight of women, girls in IDP camps

When the Boko Haram insurgency started in the North East of the country in the late 2000, many had reasoned that it was just going to be a flash in the pan, but several years after, it has been tales of woes, as the country moves from one dimension of crisis to another.

Today, many people from the region and many other parts of the North have been displaced from their ancestral homes, with many killed and others maimed, with many children made orphans and women made widows by the mindless killings that have greeted the actions of the Boko Haram members and other insurgent groups that have risen in the region. Many years after, with governments at various levels vowing to bring the insurgency to an end, many of those displaced and settled in camps with the belief that it will only be for a short time are counting years with no hope in sight as to when they will be able to relocate to their homes.

Our reporter visited one of such camps at the FCT recently, Durumi Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp during school hours. As at the time of the visit, children of school age were seen playing in groups according to their age bracket. What is interesting to note is that these children were happy and full of life. Ignorant of their predicament, parents confirmed that they have not had breakfast and they were not sure if having lunch will be possible. The Internally Displaced Persons (IDB) Camp in Durumi, Area I in the Federal Capital Territory started on February 15, 2014 due to Boko Haram insurgency with a population of 3200 persons. According to the officials of the camp, the number of households is 600.

Khadiza Ali has spent 7 years in Durumi IDP camp, she narrates her experience in a crisis that started like a joke and how she lost her husband who was the breadwinner of the family, crying uncontrollably she said “my children are growing and some are already married. I am already a grandmother, but I can’t forget how my husband who was the breadwinner of the family was killed in a crisis that started like a joke.

“I am from Goza Local Government in Borno State, I am not happy with our living condition in the camp here because feeding is so difficult and we can’t access drugs. Our challenge here is lack of basic human needs such as drugs, food items and children education. Government should intervene in our case and grant us the help we truly need as citizens of Nigeria. We also need delivery items in our clinic to assist women who are pregnant and have no money to buy delivery packs.”

Ali said that children in IDP camps lack access to education, noting also that the problem of Boko Haram is caused by lack of education, “I want the government to assist these children to go to school, because they are the leaders of tomorrow. The problem of out of school children is a serious problem because if these children are not shown the right way to go, they may grow to become terror in our society. Our children need education, especially the orphans in the Internally Displaced Persons camp.” For Fatima Alis, a food vendor, feeding is not a problem, “I don’t have a problem with feeding because I am a business woman that sells food. My husband rides a commercial motorcycle, I have four children that I feed from my food business and my husband pays their school fees from the proceeds he makes from commercial motorcycles.

“ She however appealed to the Federal Government to give them grants to uplift their business, secure and safe environment where they can fend for themselves. She noted that they were severally attacked by armed robbers in the camp “I am a petty business woman, and I want the government to give us grants to upgrade our businesses because things are so expensive now. Secondly, we need secured environment, we left our state in search of peace and safety, but getting to this camp, we still cannot relax due to armed runners attack, the government should make the environment peaceful and secure for us to thrive, we have missed the pleasure in our homeland, insecurity should not shorten our lives in the camp.

If our safety is not guaranteed here in the camp, where else do we run to?” She cried out. Speaking further on the challenges women face in the camp, Jumai Muktar an internally displaced woman living in an IDP camp said that the major issues the displaced persons are facing are centered on health and education. Muktar said that government intervention towards their welfare was only five per cent and the rest were from some good spirited Nigerians. He said that the camp lacked a formal education system, saying that some children in the camp were not in school.

On health issues, Muktar said that the medical care they are enjoying came from Network Aid for Humanitarian Assistance, a non-governmental organisation in Abuja. According to her, the container which the camp is using for health care is divided into two sections; one side for maternity services while the other is for general health care. “Although there is a trained traditional birth attendant, there are no necessary drugs in the place not even analgesics. Two years ago, when the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq was the Federal Commissioner for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, she gave us letter of permission to National Hospital for health care management, specially in an emergency situation, but after a while that stopped. “If health challenges are taken care of, we will cope with other issues because, we are farmers we fend for ourselves.”

Liyatu Ayuba, women leader and the traditional birth attendant in the camp, said that she had spent eight years in the camp, saying that there was not much government presence in the camp. Ayuba said that she was trained for four months on how to deliver mothers of babies which she had been doing successfully by the grace of God. She said she has helped expectant mothers to give birth to more than 128 children within and outside the camp.

She explained that after delivery, she usually take the child and mother to hospital for proper care. “If the expectant mother had her baby successfully, we give her some injections to prevent bleeding, but if there is complication we take her to primary health care at Area 2, but so far I have not had any complication during and after delivery of the babies,” she said. She therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to provide them with some empowerment tools, adding that many of the women in the camp are skilled, but lack startup capital to start up their businesses. Christiana Ibrahim, a mother of four children living in Yimitu IDP camp, Apo stated that life at the camp is not easy, “I am from Borno State, I left my hometown after insurgents invaded the place and destroyed everything we laboured to have.

I lost my siblings and friends to insurgency,I have been in this camp for years now, but life here is not easy at all. “I farm to feed my children and pay their school fees. Oftentimes my children are made to stay at home due to my inability to pay their school fees, I lost my husband to Boko Haram, Boko Haram shattered my whole life leaving me to care for my children all alone.

“We are hungry and also lack access to health care facilities due to lack of money. The worse that can happen to any woman is to watch her children go hungry and that is the point we are now; I appeal to the government of Nigeria not to allow us to die of hunger because we already have so many bad experiences around us.” Contrary to Ibrahim’s complaints, Halimat Husein, a young woman in her 30s said what they need most is counseling, “our major need is counsellor, right from my younger age, my parents taught me not to depend on anybody for my upkeep and made me to be industrious. I can survive any situation and identify business opportunities wherever I find myself.

“I am into petty business and that is taking care of my daily needs as a woman, but we need someone to talk to us and counsel us on how we can forget about the trauma we experienced in our state. Each time I remember how my people were unjustly killed, it gives me a headache and high BP. We need recreational activities to keep us engaged in our leisure time”

Children speak

A primary 3 pupil who identified himself as Muhammed Ishaku says that the camp is where he knows to be home, “this is where we live, this is our home, my grandparents were killed by Boko Haram according to what my parents told me. My father is a driver and we eat 3 times a day. We also cook our food with meat every day. Life here is fine because this is the only life I know; I was born in this camp.” Haminu Abubakar, a primary 4 pupil at Government Primary School Area One said he eats only once a day, “we eat only once a day and that is all. I did not go to school today because I have not paid my school fees.”

A teenager in the camp who simply identified herself as Deborah said, she wishes they have better apartment, “I mingle with other children in school, but when I told them we live in displaced persons’ camp, they tend to humiliate me because of our living condition, I see beautiful houses whenever I am going to school and I wish we can live in one of them. I am the second child of 8, my father is a farmer and my mother is not doing anything.”

IDP Camp officials

Isa Abbas is the medical attendant at the Durumi IDP camp clinic, he identified lack of drugs in the clinic as a major problem while blaming the government for not taking care of the IDP. Abbas threatened that he may be forced to join Boko Haram so that their welfare can be taken care of by the government as a repentant Boko Haram member, “Basically, there is no drugs in the clinic.

The clinic is not a government owned clinic and it is not enough because the population is 3000 plus. Are the IDPs not citizens of Nigeria? The people are thinking that the crisis is over, but that is not true, killing took place yesterday in Borno State, that means the town is still in crisis, in situation where we have cases that is beyond us at the clinic, patient are referred to government hospital and in most cases, patients detained in the hospital due to lack of resources to pay bills.

“What is the Commissioner of Refugee Commission doing? Even NEMA has collected money on our behalf, but we got nothing from them. Maybe the Federal Government needs more crisis, because they don’t care for those in IDP camp and that may trigger a protest very soon. Government care more about the Boko Haram and neglect us that we displaced by Boko Haram, if any member of Boko Haram surrenders today, government will take care of all their needs. Boko haram killed my people and government is taking good care of them while we the displaced persons are left unattended to.

Let us then join Boko haram and resign, let me join Boko haram for a month and surrender so that the government can care for my needs as a citizen. “The Federal Government is supposed to care for us because we have lost so much to these terrorists. My people before now were not hypertensive, but if you check BP of 50 persons now, 45 of them have high blood pressure because of what they have lost and the trauma they are going through even at the camp.” Umar Gola, IDP Public Relations Officer, reiterated that, “The major challenge of the less privileged now is hunger followed by health.

If not for the displacement, the challenge we have in our various communities is that of health, but here in the camp food is the number one problem we have. The priority of IDPs now is how to acquire 3 square meals a day, in Abuja, we have up to 18 camps that cannot acquire 2 square meals a day and children cannot cope with this.

“We are also facing security challenge in the camp, we were robbed by the Nigerian Army, they raided part of our camp, beat some of our brothers and made away with some of their belongings. “Luckily for us, we have the plate number of the patrol van which was used by the robbers and it was con-firmed that it was the Nigerian Army headquarters.”

He, however, said that he wished to return to his ancestral home to continue his normal way of life, but “only when their safety is assured. “ I do not wish to stay here forever, if government could guarantee security in the North-east, no place like home or government could resettle us in other places that is more safe.

He called on the government to consider their plight and do the needful so that they could be more independent and contribute meaningfully to the society. Idris Ibrahim Halilu, coordinator and spokesman, Abuja based IDPs restated that, “Life in the IDP camp is not easy, we are sad.

In preparation for the nations Independence Day celebration, top government official visited us with a programme they tagged zero hunger. If the package is truly meant for zero hunger project the quantity they brought is so poor. Only 130 food packs were brought to Durumi IDP camp and 11 other camps were invited here by the Refugee Commission. The 11 camps that were invited went with 10 packs each, what ordinarily should be for 10 families, a camp with 500 people for instance cannot be grateful for this.

“Durumi IDP camp which is the largest camp have a population of 3200 with not less than 600 households. IDPs in Abuja are on their own, government officials only reach out to us on days of special occasion to show case their cosmetics. The money they wasted on decoration and hiring of exotic chairs should have been added to provide more food package instead of the show off they came to do. “I am 68 years old and I am already used to hunger because of difficult living condition in camp, we cannot feed, we have lost our homelands, our children and our loved ones.

It will not go well with any country that neglect her people of concern, IDPs are people of concern because we are passing through traumatic experience, the fright and shocks we have suffered in the time past has affected our existence and there is no provision for health officials to counsel us.

The trauma is so much on us as some saw their loved ones being killed by terrorist.” Speaking on plans to return to their homes once peace is restored, Halilu said his tent is leaking and they will be happy to go back because they are not feeding well, “we lack access to medication and we cannot sleep well due to insecurity.” The story is not different in Wasa lDP Camp: the management of the camp also complained that Government has neglected them

Government officials’ commitment

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised that his administration will not rest until all the vulnerable persons are able to return home and resettle in their homes and rebuild their shattered lives. The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq said her ministry has poverty eradication as a fundamental part of its mandate. “Under my watch, the ministry will protect the rights of every child and adult living in poverty by putting in place strategic programmes and interventions that will aid economic growth and address social needs in line with the SDGs to end poverty in all forms by 2030.”

Imaan Suleiman Ibrahim, Federal Commissioner of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI) said: “The NCFRMI recognises that food security and dignified reintegration in a peaceful environment for vulnerable persons such as refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons are of urgent importance which is why we are committed to dealing with the consequences as well as addressing the complex root causes of displacement that affects our persons of concern by adopting a whole of society and a whole of system approach.”




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