By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The United Nations has called for the decongestion of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the North East to ward of cases of fire incident and outbreak of COVID-19.
The United Nations said: “With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly spreading across the country, I am extremely worried about the 1.8 million IDPs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States and the rest of the nearly eight million vulnerable people in these conflict-affected states. Camp decongestion has been a challenge, but it is now a priority. I call on all stakeholders to urgently contribute to efforts being made to decongest camps in respect of people’s rights and dignity.”
A statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), yesterday lamented that about fifteen fire outbreaks have been recorded in the IDP camps since the beginning of the year, which affected more than 15,000 people in Borno State.
The statement said the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, has expressed deep sorrow over multiple fire outbreaks that devastated the Monguno Water Board camp for the IDPs in northern Borno State, on 14, 15 and 18 April and the International Secondary School camp on 16 April in the town of Gamboru, Ngala Local Government Area, Borno State, near the Nigeria’s with border Cameroon.
Kallon said: “My heartfelt sympathy goes to the many vulnerable families who are affected. These are the worst fire incidents recorded in camps for the IDPs in the Northeast so far this year.”
He lamented that at least 14 people lost their lives in the fire incident in Ngala on 16 April while 15 others were injured out of which seven are still being treated in a clinic run by an aid organisations.
He also decried that over 300 shelters were damaged while a communal shelter hosting 11 families were also burnt down and more than 8,000 people already displaced by the ongoing Boko Haram crisis.
Kallon noted that aid workers are now working around the clock to mobilise support such as food, shelter and essential items like mattresses, pots, soap and clothes.
He said that another fire broke out on April 18 in the Water Board Camp in Monguno Local Government Area, which is the third incident recorded in the camp within a week, adding that the initial assessments indicated that 100 shelters were entirely burnt down.
Kallon said: “These tragedies come unfortunately among a series of recurring incidents during the dry season despite regular awareness-raising efforts made by the humanitarian community in IDP camps.”
He lamented that on April 14, communities in both Mafa and Monguno Local Government Areas lost 200 and 100 shelters respectively to massive fires outbreaks.
He said in that an elderly person who was sleeping in one of the shelters was burned alive in Mafa.
Kallon said the risk of fire outbreaks and the spread of diseases in the IDPs’ camps were extremely high due to overcrowding in makeshift and temporary shelters that were built too closely together.
He said: “I am concerned that we will keep witnessing these recurrent tragedies unless we take urgent measures to jointly address the root cause of the problem.”