An internally displaced person (idp) is someone who is forced to flee from his/her place of stay to a more secure place within his/her country's borders. Unknown to many, the reference to them as refugees is not correct, legally.
The cause for this can be violence, natural disasters and etcetera, since, and especially when the flight is unwillingly. While some of the conflict appear to be caused by religious or ethnic differences, political party affiliation, social and economic factors are other major causes.
Over the years, Nigeria regularly experiences displacement of persons as a consequence of the above mentioned factors. Where it is violence, the systematic and overlapping patterns of inequality in the country, which have almost become a second nature, is described as one of its major cause. As a result, the country is faced with the ongoing challenge of responding to fluctuating but always sizeable internally displaced populations.
Nigeria has the largest number of displaced persons in Africa with almost 3.3 million persons. In 2013 alone, 470,500 individuals were displaced. On a global scale, Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 IDPs and Columbia with 5.7 millions IDPs.
The unprecedented rise in number of IDPs in Nigeria is due to the increase in the number of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents, and an equally 'all-out' counter-insurgency operation.
The increased number of deadly attacks on border communities and the destruction of property, businesses and farmlands forced many inhabitants to flee to nearby towns and villages as well as into neighbouring Cameroon and Niger. The reprisal attacks on communities accused of sheltering Boko Haram insurgents by the Nigerian armed forces have also added to the number of displaced people in the North East.
For now, there exist almost 15 idp camps located in Maiduguri while quite a number of them are outside the state capital.
These IDPs are mostly cramped into secondary schools and uncompleted buildings. One can imagine the excessive heat they face during this season. There is no portable water to drink and adequate mosquito nets to prevent them from malaria talk more of electricity. This in essence made their living conditions difficult, unhealthy and dangerous.
Also the issue of malnutrition in both adults and children is at its alarming rate. The worst affected are children. Furthermore, health problems exacerbated by ill-equipped and unhygienic camps are malaria, typhoid, cholera and high blood pressure alongside polio, measles, etcetera.
The most neglected of all health issues is the psychological impact this trauma has on these individuals. Undiagnosed and undocumented depression, post-traumatic stress disorders are clearly visible in a number of IDPs in the camps.
There also exist prevalent cases of sexual abuse which needs to be deeply investigated. There is sexual harassment and intimidation from Civilian JTF (CJTF) and other security personnel. The identity cards issued to idps by donor organizations for ease of distribution are used to blackmail them for submission by the officials. They are issued on conditions that they give the security personnel something or sleep with them. They are using the slogan: "back for ground, card for hand". The issue of sexual harassment has become rampant within the IDPs camps in Maiduguri.
Corruption among officials has been anonymously revealed in many camps in Maiduguri right now. All or most of the officials are recruited to carter for the problems of displaced persons not to make themselves richer as it is characterized in Nigeria. But sadly there is no attention to detail or sincerity in providing the much needed services for the health and well being of the people.
The number of idps are exaggerated, funds redirected and foods stolen. The food allocated to the IDPs is reduced In quantity and quality by the officials and in most cases the items meant for the victims are carted away by officials after inspection by the government officials and the materials provided are not handed over despite the insufficiency of the materials or food items.
A volunteer who went there to distribute food items to the victims in Dalori IDP camp, Maiduguri explained that, in most cases the officials force the victims to sell their food stock to them. The security agencies are buying the food items from the victims instead of allowing them with the little food items they were given, and sometimes they force them to sell it at lower price. To nail down the point, a lady gave birth to a baby boy and dumped him in a half-closed drainage. When she was caught, she confessed that she's an IDP.
The government and other stakeholders should look into these issues. Some camps are unguarded and open to all kinds of dangers and threats. This should be focused on.
Education in some camps is virtually not existing. There is the fear that lack of preoccupation might result in bad or criminal behaviour such as drug addiction, prostitution and continued destitution. Spaces for learning should be created.
The unhygienic nature of the current shelter being provided is unpleasant. A healthy living environment is very vital for resettlement of the IDPs or to let them look for shelter for themselves.
The food provided is sadly insufficient and does not meet the requirements for proper growth and development of young children or the sustenance of adult. A balance diet is extremely essential.
Daily or weekly health checks for every individual to ascertain who is in need of medical attention is also primary. A mobile health clinic should always be on standby as there can be emergencies at any point. Also, the victims should be put on test to verify if they are or need to be rehabilitated.
Psychological health assessment, mental health intervention and evaluation should be ongoing and continued as their figures increase day by day in the country. In terms of shelter, semi-permanent and detached housing will not suffice. The allocation for welfare can build permanent site where IDPs can find solace.
Then, also the issue of mismanagement of funds is of paramount importance to address. The presidency should thoroughly investigate those entrusted with the well being of our citizens for mismanaging the funds. The task of providing humanitarian support is daunting and multi-faceted. But if a blind eye is turned to the plights of our displaced persons, it will cost our nation a great deal.
Abdulkareem Adamu Hamakhan 300 Level student of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri.