Internally-Displaced-Persons

Rising Misery in the Land and Rising Generosity in Society, By Jibrin Ibrahim

What this crisis has brought out however is that Nigerians have in general stood up to be counted as generous helpers and supporters to these 2.2 million IDPs. When IDPs run, they do not go to the State and its institutions; they seek help from relations and friends. Many times, they go to places where they know no one, so they simply rely on communities to help them… The Nigerian State simply does not have the capacity or the resources to cater for such huge numbers… It is important that we commend this extraordinary generosity of ordinary Nigerians.

So far, the 21st century has been a period of rising misery in Nigeria. There has been a spectacular growth of the incidence of poverty from 54 percent to 69 percent of the population. Insecurity has grown with rural banditry making the hinterland extremely unsafe and with mass kidnappings in the cities, there is nowhere to run to. Militancy is returning to the Niger Delta and piracy is growing on our territorial waters. The insurgency in the North-East has become a major challenge to the state and society and created a massive humanitarian crisis with multiple dimensions, all of which have led to increased loss of lives, displacements, and destruction of communities and of property. The most serious impact of the Boko Haram insurgency has been the massive loss of lives and property. Lives lost in the process cut across rural and urban community dwellers, including children, women, the elderly and the youth, who account for most of the fatalities, especially where whole communities have been attacked. Security personnel have also been deliberate targets of Boko Haram; the insurgents have killed hundreds of military and police operatives.

No one knows how many people Boko Haram has killed but it’s estimated that the death toll is over 20,000. Other notable causes of deaths in recent times have been clashes between nomads and sedentary groups, spreading across several States including Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Zamfara. The other primary sources of casualties are inter-communal clashes and widespread conflicts between so-called indigenes and settlers.

The current estimate of the number of people internally displaced due to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency is 2.2 million. This is a huge number by any standard. One of the worst aspects of the crisis is that most of the IDPs are women and children who fled after their husbands and elder sons were killed.

Misery has been escalating because the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East has been employing a scorched earth policy in which insurgents kill all the people they can find, burn down houses, loot property and animals, and destroy all that they cannot carry. The insurgents then poison water sources and in some cases lay mines. Homes, schools, markets, entire villages, and government buildings have been systematically destroyed and in many instances, key infrastructure such as bridges, telecommunications masts and electricity distribution installations have also been vandalised, making it difficult for displaced people to return and reconstruct their communities. The combined effects of these challenges are huge and include food shortages, reduced trade and capital flows, loss of livelihoods, and unemployment. Faced with such a situation, the survivors of these attacks flee out of the country and become refugees or flee within the country and become internally displaced persons (IDPs). The economy of the region has suffered catastrophic collapse as more and more people are compelled to abandon their homes, professions and localities.

The current estimate of the number of people internally displaced due to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency is 2.2 million. This is a huge number by any standard. One of the worst aspects of the crisis is that most of the IDPs are women and children who fled after their husbands and elder sons were killed. In addition to losing family members, the situation also deprives many of the women and children of their breadwinners, who might have lost their lives or their livelihoods. Most IDPs have had their property damaged and are unable to afford the cost of immediate reconstruction, while those whose livelihoods are closely linked to the land, such as farmers or people running small businesses, are completely crippled. The highly developed regional agricultural value chains – astride Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun – relating to crops, livestock and fisheries around the Lake Chad area have been devastated, with most of the communities in total disarray.

Nigerians have a heart, we feel for those suffering and it matters because our collective effort has played a major role in managing the huge crisis generated by the insurgency.

 

Internally displaced persons face several challenges, including the lack of decent shelter, potable water and good sanitation, insufficient food, poor nutrition and little or no access to effective educational and healthcare services. Malnutrition has become a huge problem among the IDPs. In addition to the material needs of IDPs, there are the different issues faced by women and girls who have been abducted by Boko Haram and who have managed to escape or who have been rescued. A significant number of these women and girls have become pregnant and given birth to children as a consequence of their ‘marriages’ with insurgents and/or the sexual slavery they experienced at the hands of their abductors. In addition to the atrocities and trauma that these women and girls have suffered, they are viewed with great suspicion by community members when they return. There is generally great mistrust of the children born out of sexual violence. The community tends to assume that the children are bound to inherit the negative traits of their abductors and torturers. The assumption is of course baseless but that is what a lot of people believe.

What this crisis has brought out however is that Nigerians have in general stood up to be counted as generous helpers and supporters to these 2.2 million IDPs. When IDPs run, they do not go to the State and its institutions; they seek help from relations and friends. Many times, they go to places where they know no one, so they simply rely on communities to help them. Religious organisations have in particular played a huge role in receiving and caring for them. IDPs simply turn up in mosques and churches where ordinary people tax themselves to cater for them. The Nigerian State simply does not have the capacity or the resources to cater for such huge numbers. The IDPs know it and it’s for this reason that most of them avoid official camps and seek direct help from communities and families. It is important that we commend this extraordinary generosity of ordinary Nigerians. It’s important to say so because the impact of IDPs on host communities has been harsh, as scarce resources have to be stretched amongst many recipients. Nigerians have a heart, we feel for those suffering and it matters because our collective effort has played a major role in managing the huge crisis generated by the insurgency.


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