Catering for internally displaced persons in emergencies

Some IDPs (sitting)

Some IDPs (sitting)

After the recent World Population Day (WPD) 2015, stakeholders have expressed concern about the 1.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country largely due to communal conflicts and insurgency in the North East. Studies indicate that vulnerable population in emergencies is exposed to a series of protection risks and threats such as forced labour by the insurgents, physical abuse and torture, extortion, abductions, theft, forced conscription and sexual and gender-based violence as well as poor living conditions and debilitating poverty.

At the four different IDPs’ camps within Abuja and located at Lugbe, Area One, New Kuchingoro and Kuje, misery is writ large on the faces of these ‘lucky ones’ who managed to escape gruesome deaths by the bullet and other weapons of insurgents. Vice Chairman of Kuchingoro camp, Mr. Usman Adamu, affirmed to The Guardian that at least 80 per cent of the IDPs in his camp would prefer to be back to their homes than stay in these camps.

He said, “We need government to find good place to give us to live; you know that here is a temporary site because it is people’s land. Anywhere, even in Borno State, would suffice.”

Investigations show that residents around these IDPs’ camps expressed fears that some of the inhabitants’ behaviour resembled those of terrorists, especially the case of a fierce fight that started at about 11pm and lasted till dawn among the Kuchingoro’s IDPs. It took the intervention of combat-ready military personnel with hot-water dispenser vehicles to stop the bloody fight.

The fight, it was gathered, started after arguments over control and sharing formulas over monetary gifts and provisions provided by good-hearted individuals, organisations and some national and foreign governments. The fight claimed a number of lives and till date the military often parade the camp to ensure peace.

During a recent visit, young men were seen lying around playing games of draught or cards as the children and women were attended to by other religious and humanitarian organisations.

Chairman of National Population Commission (NPC), Mr. Eze Duruiheoma said at a press briefing in Abuja that the 2015 WPD with theme on ‘Vulnerable population in emergencies’ portrays one of the gravest consequences of insurgency which is in the number of people who have been internally displaced.

He asserted that WPD, commemorated annually since 1987, creates public awareness on issues of population and development such as reproductive health, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights. Duruiheoma affirmed that the sensitization of the IDPs vulnerability “expectedly raises awareness on the plight of the vulnerable population and provides a collective sustained platform for the government, the private sector, partners, donors and individuals to mobilize resources that will be used to address the needs of the IDPs in camps at the moment and put in place adequate measures to help reduce the sufferings of vulnerable population in Nigeria.”

The NPC chairman said other specific objectives of stakeholders’ collaboration include sustained commitments from all stakeholders to contribute to addressing the needs of the IDPs, raise a platform for engaging or involving the private sector to support and complement efforts of government, galvanize policy-makers to take appropriate actions in the short-term and long term to address causes of preventable emergencies, evolve a sustainable solution in addressing the needs of the IDPs and ensure provision of correct data on IDPs for informed decisions and interventions.

A Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 4 Report for June 2015 released by the International Organisation for Immigration (IOM) showed that a total of 1,385,298 persons are displaced by insurgency and communal conflicts and in need of rehabilitation. The Displacement Tracking Matrix which was conducted by IOM in collaboration with the National Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Management Agency, the Nigerian Red Cross and other humanitarian partners was in response to the need for accurate and up-to-date data regarding IDPs population in the Northeast.

With financial aid from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department and the United States Agency for International Development, the report indicated a total number of IDPs in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states as 1,385, 298 from 188,547 households. With Borno State having the highest IDPs at 1,002, 688 from 126,483 households; Yobe state follows with 125,484 IDPs comprising of 23,210 households and Adamawa state with 113,437 IDPs from 15,317 households.

According to the survey, the IDPs are, however, undaunted by the effects of terror. 82 per cent of the IDPs expressed the desire to return to their places of origin while 18 per cent are not willing to return home but rather settle down where they are or move to other host communities.

THE United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has classified the high risk population in emergencies with ‘heightened vulnerability’ to include the new born, children (that are) separated and unaccompanied, orphans, adolescent girls and women (especially those in reproductive ages), who are exposed to sexual exploitation, violence, forced marriage and reproductive health related illnesses. Others include pregnant women, women with infants, persons with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS or disability, those sexually abused and the elderly.

According the NPC Chairman while addressing the plights of the vulnerable population, “Their conditions notwithstanding, the vulnerable population in emergencies are part and parcel of the society and all hands must be on deck to ensure that their sufferings are mitigated and they are properly rehabilitated and integrated into the society.

“Given the opportunities, the vulnerable population can also make meaningful contribution to the development of the society. The potentials inherent in the young children including the girl-child must be tapped for development purposes”.

Duruiheoma suggested deliverables in tackling the vulnerable population challenges to include collaboration between many stakeholders, especially large organizations that have the expertise and capacity to deal with emergencies and handling of diverse vulnerable population like National Emergency Management Agency, the Nigerian Red cross, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

He noted that in creating structures and coming up with action plans at the grassroots level government needs to empower communities with training and equipment that will assist victims as this will go a long way in reducing fatalities as well as putting structures in place before help arrives in times of emergencies.

He also cited the setting up of different permanent structures across the geo-political zones in Nigeria with modern and equipped facilities to cater for the needs of IDPs and addressing the causes of these conflicts especially the communal clashes, disputes between farmers and herdsmen.

Assistant Country Representative at United Nations Population Fund, Mr. Osarentin Adonri, stressed that recent reports show that at 2013, about 60 million people are in IDPs camps globally. Adonri expressed concerns over the safety, health and psychological wellbeing of the most vulnerable at these camps especially children, women and the elderly as “IDPs camps are not the best places to stay…. heightened gender based violence and transferred aggression exist.”

Adonri said, “If a woman gives birth for instance, I can tell you that in many cases of emergencies, many women become midwives. There is nothing we can do about it but at least they should have basic things like a clean razor to cut the umbilical cord of a child.

“UNFPA has partners; NPC is one of our strongest partners. We are calling on government to at least help increase the response rate in situations of emergence. As situations come in day in day out, the government must begin to become innovative; that is why in some cases, UNFPA provides vehicular assistance including provision of psycho-social support to assist those that survived. Some women and children saw their children and parents slaughtered or vice versa.

“I am happy that the NPC is assisting to reverse the National Population Policy. This must be based on the need for Nigeria to reap the demographic dividends so that we will have youths that are productive, empowered to be able to contribute to the economy rather than youths that are empowered to carry AK-47 by the age of 13. The message of UNFPA is the message of hope and I will invite you to join us to assist those that are idle youths for now to prevent those that are gearing up to join the army of insurgency.

He advised government to respond quickly to IDPs issues, pay more attention to the reproduction health of women and young girls or adolescents and in the long run invest more in the youth so as to have productive youths and not those lured into insurgency. According to him, many countries in the world are involved in this initiative of involving the huge population of young people that are deliberately brought forth into the economy to be productive and help the economy grow.

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