Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Following the series of bloody attacks and reprisals that ravaged several communities in Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state between February and March this year, no fewer than 10,018 persons majorly women and children have been displaced and currently seeking refuge in four major make-shift camps within the state, Saturday Sun investigations have revealed.
Available data show that, Kufana camp has 3,003 refugees, Mararaban Kajuru has 4,104, Kankomi has 400 and Kadara town hall camp has 2,511, mainly aged women, pregnant women and children. These are in addition to those that are either in hospitals or with relatives elsewhere.
Although the House of Representatives has resolved to investigate incessant attacks and killings in the local government with intention to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the unrest in the area, the displaced persons are however on the verge, facing humanitarian crisis and in urgent need of immediate succour such as food, water, toilets, bathrooms and toiletries pending the time absolute peace will be restored in their homeland.
When Saturday Sun visited Kadara town hall camp, the living condition of the people there was nothing to write home about and already raising humanitarian crisis. The camp represents what is possibly happening in other IDP camps across the country – with little or no government’s presence.
Tales of anguish
Narrating her experience, 25-year-old Mercy Nikom, mother of four said, though she was living with mixed feelings at the camp, she was afraid of going back home until there is assurance of livelihood in the local government. “I’m afraid of going back home because I don’t know what may become of me.”
Salama Kefas, mother of two and a native of Dogo Noma said, “my husband has gone back to the village. We were informed about the plan of the attackers and we ran away before they came that night and return around 6:30 am the following day. They did come as we were informed at about the time we were returning from hiding. When they came, they were many and they were shooting at anything in sight and started burning our houses. It was a sad experience where families were forcefully separated. The surprising thing was that, these people were operating freely.
“We appreciate all that have sympathised or empathised with us here. Our people here are also taking care of us in this camp. We have issue with toilet, water and mattress. We are squatting with our friends and relatives. But you know, anyhow we want to look at it, your home is your home no matter how small.”
60-year-old Salome Najiakiya, from Karamin explained how she lost 11 family members to the crises, saying her home was the first port of call when the assailants arrived. “They told us they were coming for us and they did come. On that day, we knew they were coming. We were in the bush till following day. But when the day broke, we came back to the house. They started with my house. They came around 6:30 am in the morning, entering our houses to kill who they could lay their hands on. By the time they left, 11 members of my family including my husband, my children, my husband’s brother and his family members. It was a terrible experience for me. It was a bad one. Very bad”, she said, heaving a heavy sigh.
Camp leaders open up
A caregiver at the facility, Hannatu Umar hinted that, there are reported cases of malaria and typhoid fever among the people in the camp. She added that, non-availability of water and toilet have deprived women and young girls the opportunity to manage their monthly menstrual issues properly at the camp.
“The major cases here are malaria and typhoid fever. And for women and girls, who constitute 99 percent of people you see here, they don’t have access to sanitary pads and other toiletries and even when they have them, we may also have to educate them on how they can use them. They have to use them because even if they want to use pieces of cloth as we know to be the tradition in villages, there is no water to use that. So, for now, we have enough drugs to address malaria. What they need is toilet and water,’’ she said.
Chairman, Camp Medical Team, Christopher Zaki expressed concern over pregnant women and nursing mothers at the facility saying, “so far, we have 30 pregnant women here and some are yet to show up. Children are being threatened by malaria possibly due to change of environment. This affects them so much.
“There was a case of one of them that we had to refer to General Hospital Sabon Tasha. According to her story, she fell while running away during the attack and sustained injuries in the process. Already, she has hepatitis B. So, she needs to go for liver functioning test before we can attend to her properly here at the camp.”
Chairman of the IDP camp in Ungwan Kadara, Musa Magaji confirmed that as at Monday, March 19, the camp registered 2,511 refugees at Kadara town hall. These refugees according to him and physical assessment were women and children including pregnant women.
“As at yesterday, Monday, we have 2,511 IDPs in this camp alone. We also have them in thousands at other camps in Kufana, Kankomi and Mararaban Kajuru. They don’t really sleep here. They sleep in our houses. I have 20 of them in my own house. We are yet to see anyone from government. All that have been coming are churches and non-governmental organisations.
“This place is where we just use to hold our monthly association meetings. But when the crisis busted in Kajuru, we were left with no option than to convert this place to temporary solace for these women and children. The assailants killed some of their husbands and parents. I’m not aware if anyone has been arrested in connection to that attack. But, our elders were arrested and kept behind bars. It is unfortunate.
“The challenge here is mainly toilet and water, and you know, we are hosting women and children here. They need water. They need toilet. So, we are appealing to those who can help to please shun the media hype that state emergency agency has been directed to offer humanitarian help.”
Also speaking, Chairman, Adara Development Association, Kaduna branch, Comrade Ali Jessy decried the neglect of IDPs by the state government. According to him, the only time the displaced people felt government’s presence was the day of the attack when Kajuru local government brought a few drugs for immediate use.
“The only people we have seen are members of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU) while those who are good at talking without action are nowhere to be found. Nobody prays to find himself in this kind of situation. People need toilet and water here. This is a town. Even open defecation is not possible because everywhere is developed here. They should know we have only women and children in IDP camps.
“The sad thing is that, upon all the attacks, no single arrest was made on the part of those criminals but reverse is the case. They arrested our leaders for no just cause while they pamper those people who have been moving from one community killing, maiming and burning properties. As if they are spirit, no single arrest. It is that bad.
“We thank those organisations and churches that have brought relief materials to these women and children especially, Bako Youth Development Foundation. Their director was here to know what we need and today, he has brought those things especially malaria drugs and other consumables. We say a big thank you for that gesture. May there be peace in our land,’’ he prayed.
NGO to the rescue
A philanthropist and Executive Director of Bako Youth Development Foundation, Andy Bako, who brought some relief materials to the camp, could not control himself as he wept uncontrollably when he saw the condition of children and pregnant women at the camp.
“I am from Bako Youth Development Foundation. Since the beginning of crisis in Kajuru when we started hearing about people running up and down for their lives, moving from their homes and settling down in IDP camps, we never understood the magnitude of people here. When I came yesterday and saw what was on ground here, we then resolved to do our best to ameliorate their plight and to show them that we identify with them in this difficult time and we hope peace will reign once again in Kajuru.
“Like I said, when I came in yesterday and saw them, I put myself in their condition and was speechless. Coincidentally, today is the day marking international social worker’s day with theme; understanding the importance of human relations. So, we felt as part of our contribution to commemorate the day, we brought here medicines, clothing, mosquito nets and other items to support them.
“We are here to show you that you are not alone in this your trying time. We are supporting you with drugs and other consumables. We also brought clothes and shoes for women and children. We hope they will be distributed judiciously for those that need them. We sympathize and empathize with you,’’ he added.