All through history, people have been displaced as result of war, famine, earthquake, flood and other natural disasters. Instinctively, victims of such happenstance had always sought shelter in safer places far removed from the troubled spots. Such sudden uprooting of persons in large numbers had always elicited sympathies from public-spirited persons and humanitarian groups who are touched to cater for them. Most times, such internally displaced persons are catered for by respective governments that house them in temporary shelters pending when they would safely return home.
It is therefore not out of place that hundreds of thousands of persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast of Nigeria are kept in temporary shelters by the federal and state governments awaiting the return of normalcy in their areas. According to statistics released by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Nigeria has 3,3 million persons displaced by conflict, making it the highest number in Africa.
Globally, Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5million IDPs and Columbia with 5.7million IDPs. Discountenancing the brutal Boko Haram insurgency, communal clashes is another factor contributing to the high number of displaced persons in the country. Fact is that clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen over grazing lands in Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, and parts of Kaduna have seen many people killed and displaced. While these unfortunate Nigerians are living in camps with minimal personal possessions, the news that some of them are being brutalised, raped and even trafficked for money is very chilling.
There is no denying the fact that conditions in most of the camps are atrocious with many of the refugees living in crowded and unhealthy environment, where everything, from water to food, is in short supply. Indeed, rape is increasingly becoming one of the defining features of the tragedy. Besides, some criminals admitted into some of the camps due to inadequate profiling are posing real threats to the inmates.
In addition, complaints of shortage of food, shelter, clothing, bed sheets, mats and mattresses should be addressed wherever they occur. Such needs demand urgent attention. Poor hygiene and inadequate provisions account for much of the ill health of displaced persons. We believe it is the duty of government to protect these people not only from the elements but also from the nefarious activities of human traffickers and paedophiles.
Only recently, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said that 410 babies were born, even as 187 marriages were conducted at Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDPs) in Borno and Adamawa states between August and September last year. With thousands amongst them being children and pregnant women, cholera outbreak could be disastrous.
We call on the governments to provide these people with water; bread; jobs, welfare and hope for a better tomorrow. Apart from these basic needs, the internally displaced person should be counselled, cared for and assisted to overcome the emotional traumatisation that is usually associated with such nasty experience. In all, we call on the federal and state governments to equip the displaced persons with relevant skills that would enable them fend for themselves while in the camps and even after they return home.