The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defined Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to be “persons or groups of persons who have been forced to flee, or leave, their homes or places of habitual residence as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, and habitual violations of human rights, as well as natural or man-made disasters involving one or more of these elements, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border”.
Due to the incessant conflicts and attacks faced by many in the different states of Nigeria, there has been loss of lives and properties.
A large number of Nigerians today are displaced with no proper shelters over their heads. Many displaced persons in their thousands are living in abysmal poverty and despair. Displacement is therefore a form of negative social change. It is an unplanned sudden movement of people seeking protection from violence. Internally displaced persons were forcefully driven from their natural or original place of residence or homes through violence. IDPs are forced to leave their homes or they are maimed or killed while their properties are destroyed and their economic sources of livelihood decimated.
IDP camps are set up by the government to ensure that IDPs have secured places to stay in the interim. The camps are temporary shelters to provide initial relief for the victims of the displacement. One of such camps set up or recognized by the government is the Kuchingoro IDP camp close to the Games Village, Abuja. On my visit to the camp, I made some notable but pathetic discoveries.
With a population of 4500 persons, the Kuchingoro IDPs are a mix of persons from Bauchi, Plateau, Adamawa, and over 90% from Borno State. Unfortunately, the population of IDPs does not entirely consist of Nigerians alone; some of them are from Cameroon. However, this might not augur well for the future of the country. It seems to me that the foreigners might not have been profiled properly; this itself portends another security problem in the waiting.
Another noteworthy concern is the dehumanizing condition of the IDPs. The IDPs had migrated to the camp since 2014; however the concern of the government towards them was visible only during the first year. They depended more on humanitarian assistance – from Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and well-meaning individuals.
In line with the above, there is little or no provision for social amenities like medical facilities, power and water supply, and educational facilities at least for their wards. The children at the camp are being denied proper education. Although an educational structure “Nos Vies on Partage School” has been set up, the school operates with minimal educational resources and unprofessional teachers who are volunteers. On the path of the youths, life becomes unbearable, they therefore engage in wayward things such as drug abuse and related vices.
Ironically, the IDP camp has become a permanent place of tension, strain, vulnerability to diseases, acute malnutrition, and general endangerment rather than a place of temporary succour and relief.
Facilities at the camp are poorly built, mostly wooden with smell that chokes; the entire environment makes them vulnerable to countless number of diseases. Malaria, bacterial infections and transmissible diseases, are common; their psychological and mental health are at stake. Medical personnel who are mostly volunteers are few and not always available. Worse still is that pregnant women at the camp can hardly access ante-natal and post-natal services. Many of them are eager to go back to their states and communities because of the unbearable situation of the camp. But they are not certain of the safety of their ancestral homes. Majority of the inhabitants of the camp are women and children. They have no means of livelihood.
However, there is still hope for a better future. I recommend, therefore, that the government takes a holistic view of these challenges. They should look into the general well-being of the IDPs and ensure the provision of basic social amenities like potable water, food, electricity, amongst others. Attention should be given greatly towards education of the children. Proper educational facilities and professional teachers should be provided for the children. The government should provide capital for women to start -up businesses. Lastly, profiling IDPs in the camps is an essential action the government should carry out to address future security challenges.
This would provide adequate data of the identity of every displaced person resident in the camp, including the non-Nigerians. In conclusion, government must ensure that IDP camps are temporary development not a permanent one as the case now. Adequate conflict prevention, management and resolution should be put in place to address violent conflict issues so as to return peace to troubled areas and allow IDPs return to their communities and homes in good time. All stakeholders should work assiduously towards ensuring the safe return of IDPs to their respective homes and communities.
–––Mujong Rachel Humwapwa is a serving corps member at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja