As sanity and peace returns to the Boko-haram war-torn zones of north-eastern Nigeria, the struggles of war aftermath is getting out of hand while the government and Nigerians alike watch in indifference.
In the wake of recovery in these states is intense famine arising alongside all other components that accompany longer term displacements. The Boko haram crisis which started in 2009 has made millions of citizens in the north-east been displaced.
These states, as well as the federal government, seem helpless while people; Nigerian citizens are dying daily of preventable health challenges and hunger. According to Medicins Sans Frontieres, 6 children die daily in Bama, Borno state IDP camp. Nigeria is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, yet chooses to carry on like nothing is happening.
These states which are still struggling to rebuild from years of terrorism does not seem to have any tangible strategy or means to tackle the aftermath of the boko haram crisis.
The federal government’s intervention strategies lack clear and intentional directions and are mostly raid with bureaucratic processes that breed corruption. The president’s initiative on the north-east intervention team has recently not been able to account for “N2.5b, however, N253M was used to fight plant invasion, N203M was used to cut grass, N50m was given to local non-profits while N2m was used to feed the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)” – Remi Sonaiya.
Food and relive items donated to the IDPs are intercepted by corrupt officials, thus, never gets to the intended beneficiaries. In some IDP camps, little girls are raped while women are having to exchange sex.
Apart from hunger, the IDPs are in urgent need of access to clean water, basic healthcare, family planning interventions, shelter and warm clothing for the northern harmattan. However, food remains the most urgent need of the IDPs. The internally displaced are extremely vulnerable, however, women and children are the most vulnerable in the IDP communities.
Further, besides, women and children, there is a set of displaced people within the IDP community that are termed “illegitimate” by the government and are therefore not eligible for any form of reliefs. The “illegitimate” internally displaced persons are supposedly not Nigerians and are therefore not recognised as qualified beneficiaries. So besides overall population, there is a set of unqualified displaced persons within the IDP community that overlooked by government interventions and have to depend on private and individuals who know about them and how to access them for survival.
In theory, combatting the aftermath of Boko-harm and resettlement of the displaced members of the north-eastern states requires a holistic plan that seems very complicated. In practice, overcoming these challenges requires multiple interventions that trade off of each other running concurrently in order to help these states rebuild and settle displaced people.
For example, interventions cannot just focus on feeding, it requires healthcare, education, livelihood and resettlement plans. The state government’s main role should be on rebuilding the states, while international communities, NGO, the private sector and individuals should focus on meeting the immediate needs to arrest the rising crisis; putting things under control.
It’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed and want to turn away from a story like this. The news is discouraging — and likely to get bleaker. But those of us with the good fortune to live in safety have a responsibility to do what we can to help.
And there are ways to help;
- Support Local Non-Profits: most involve donating to local organisations that are on the ground in or around north-east. I know not everyone has money to spare, but if you can make it work; donate food, medical supplies, deworming medication for children, contraceptives- to control alarming birth rates in the IDPs and clothing items, providing much-needed funds to local and community-based initiatives is the most efficient way to assist at a crucial moment like this.
- Support Doctors Without Borders: the global, nonpartisan medical relief organisation is active providing local medical facilities but there are not enough of them and the demands for medical attention in the IDP camps far outweighs availability and accessibility. The majority of medical assistants in the NE are international while the local medical interventions lack equipment, supplies, administrative funds and volunteer personnel.
- Start and Keep the Narratives Alive: The local media for some reason are not covering the crisis in the NE. Howbeit, it is imperatives that we all keep the narratives of the realities of the IDP alive as that is the only way to ensure that people are not dying in silence while the rest of Nigeria lives in delusion and denial. If you a story teller or a journalist, use social media to keep the narrative alive, if live in cities areas the IDP camps, it is your responsibility to demand action and better treatment of the displaced from IDP local officials. Organise protest effort where you are to ensure awareness of the realities of the internally displaced persons in the north-east.
More importantly, call your senators and various ministries that should be in charge of managing this crisis to demand accountability and transparency of the monthly IDP fund allocations.
Borno state has a total of 5.5 million population out of which 3 million are displaced. The longer term effect of displacement in this northern state is that, if interventions are not holistic and timely, a state like Borno may never be able to recover.
The north-east crisis is beginning to look like what happened in Rwanda post-war. What is happening in the north-east isn’t just a humanitarian tragedy, it’s a moral crisis. It’s a time to put aside our denial of reality and indifference, to get real, and to act as best and as effectively as each of us can because the Internally Displaced Persons are human beings who are Nigerian citizen, whose government failed to protect- leaving them vulnerable to the menace of Boko-haram for over six years.
Boko haram and the Fulani herdsmen are already recruiting children from these camps, if things continue how they are, more terrorist groups will emerge from northern Nigeria. And soon the monster which our indifference created will hold Nigeria hostage in ways we never thought possible.
If we continue to do nothing now, five years from now we’ll never stop asking ourselves why we didn’t.