By Shamsiyya Haruna
Refugees in Borno state are agonizing over inadequate food and poor shelter, despite the intervention of Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) and humanitarian organizations working in the area to improve the condition of living of the displaced resident in various camps.
According to them, the food items distributed by aid workers often finish within two weeks, and it takes many days before the displaced receive a new supply, despite the government’s promise to provide food items at the end of every month.
Freedom Radio observed that the IDPs, most of who were farmers prior to the Boko Haram attack, could no longer go to farms, and therefore have to depend on food distributed by international agencies, such as United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). WFP has assisted not fewer than 1.2 million displaced people in the North East.
But many of the IDPs told Freedom Radio that their food items now come in short supply and the available shelter could not accommodate all the displaced.
According to National Population Commission (NPC), there are estimated 1.7 million IDPs in over 321,580 households across six states of North-East Nigeria with 40 per cent residing in camp-like settings in urban areas, plus 1.4 million returnees. And the number is rising.
The displaced people urged the government to return them back to their homes to continue their agricultural activities, as they are tired of receiving handouts that are barely enough to feed their family, and that hardly come on time.
Mr Talle, a refugee from Marte local government, a neighbouring area of Chad living in Bakassi camp, said the government has sent some of the IDPs back to their villages, but it seems the government has forgotten the remaining IDPs.
Reacting to the development, Borno state commissioner for rehabilitation and reconstruction, Professor Baba Gana Umara Zulum said the state government is working tirelessly in taking the remaining IDPs back to their villages, but before then, the government wants to ensure that normalcy has returned to such areas.
During a visit to most of the IDP camps, Freedom Radio found many children playing, though they were supposed to be in schools.
Similarly, the tents that serve as shelter are torn apart due to overuse. IDPs said some of the tents have been in use for more than two years, whereas the lifespan of the material used in making the tent is six months on the average.
Most families sleep on a mat, as they do not have a blanket and other sleeping materials. When it rains, the tents got torn apart.
For some, no stored food in their rooms, except the mats on which they lay.
IDPs in Gubio Camp have similar complaints as others – No food, no shelter, no education. Mamman Abacha and Malama Hauwa expressed deep bitterness over their state of lack.
Former chairman of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Grema Terap, said the food shortages were due to alleged diversion of the food items which was suspected being sold in the markets, thus, they have complained about the issue to the National Assembly, but yet no action has been taken.
Reacting on the development, NEMA north-east zonal coordinator Bashir Idi Garga denied the allegations, adding that the agency was fully able to provide food for the internally displaced persons in the region.
According to him, NEMA is partnering with the international donor agencies to address the problem facing the IDPs in the northeastern part of the country.
It was in 2016 that President Muhammadu Buhari established the PCNI, to resettle and rebuild the North East region. Speaking during the inauguration of the committee, the president said the Committee should take a quick look at the conditions of the IDPs and take urgent remedial measures to alleviate their conditions.
In an interview with Freedom Radio, Vice Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Tijjani Tumsa said the alleged diversion of foodstuff has decreased compared to three years back.
Reports indicate that the Presidential Committee will exist for a period of three years, and it will be funded through Federal, State and Local Government appropriation, as well as funds from the private sector and international development partners.
Falmata, who is one of the refugees living in Bakassi Camp, complains that, apart from inadequate food, their children are out of school, adding that poor feeding, sanitary conditions, lack of proper medical attention are the major challenges facing them in the camp.
Most parents in the camps cannot afford to send their children to school because of the conditions they found themselves.
Malam Baana Bukar, who lives in the Teachers’ Village Camp, says their major problem is a shortage of food, saying that they are living in the camp for almost three years, but yet they are battling with starvation.
IDPs living in informal camps, such as Kushari, Jiddimuri, Wulari, Galtimari, Ajiganar among others, face difficulties in accessing basic needs such as food, education and healthcare.
Hafsat, a mother of four living in Jiddimuri Camp said before then, NEMA supported them with some food items on monthly basis but the program had wound up now.
Reacting, Garga says for security considerations, they have moved on severely for advocacy visit to let them know the dangers inherent in staying in the camps without been registered by government agencies.
Within Maiduguri, internally displaced populations are battling with inadequate food, while IDP camps and camp-like settlement are disorganised with extreme humanitarian indicators across all sectors.
These are part of the problems for which PCIN was set up. But two years after, the condition of the internally displaced persons in the northeast appears to be getting worse.