From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has concluded plans to establish learning centres in Internally Displaced Persons IDP camps in Benue State.
UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Field Office Dr Ibrahim Conteh disclosed this when he paid a final visit to the IDP camp in the Ukpiam community of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State on Monday.
Conteh who has completed his mission in Nigeria and on transfer to Afghanistan noted that already funding has been received to establish a learning centre at the Upkiam camp while funding would be sourced for the establishment of more in other camps across the state.
Asked when the project would commence, Content said, “Very soon. We already have the budget and we are doing the contract in the process now. Maybe in the next two weeks, they will start erecting the temporary learning centres.
“It’s not really a permanent school, it’s a semi-permanent school to give an opportunity to children not to sit under the trees to learn but to sit in a proper classroom. We will also be providing desks and chairs to ensure that these children have a proper learning environment.
“For now, we only have funding for this camp (Ukpiam camp) and we are planning to put two big units so that we can have between 500 to 600 children in there. But we are also still looking for more funding.
“As we get more funding we will continue to do more. So, this is not the end. This is just the start. At least, they can have a place to go to school and we will continue to address the needs as they are there and as we have the resources,” Conteh said.
The outgoing UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Filed Office also commended the resilience of IDPs in Benue State who have been in camps over the years.
“My final word to Benue State and any other state that I have worked is a word of hope. There is a lot of hope in this country. The potential is there. Apparently, the country has been affected by a lot of situations but there’s a lot of resilience by communities.
“Even in a situation like this, coming to the camp, you see people who are quite happy and are striving to move forward and trying to educate their children and to work hard to put food on the table. That is very encouraging. They are not always sitting and waiting for the United Nations or government to come and support them. They also try on their own.
“Of course, there are things that they’re not able to do and those things, we always try to come and give support. But we also know that things they can do, they do them well. So, that is very hopeful and I think I just want to encourage them to continue that way.
“We hope that things will be better in the future. But for now, I think there’s a lot of hope. The people are resilient. So, we will continue to support them. And my absence does not change anything because somebody is going to replace me and that person is going to continue the good work that we have already started. We will continue to engage the people.”
He called on the government to continue to support the IDPs especially in addressing the situation of women and children.
“We will also continue to knock on the doors of government because we think that the government efforts in addressing the situation of women and children are very critical.
“So, we will continue to knock on the doors of government to do more especially in situations like this where people are affected. We want the Government to pay more attention to do more for these communities.”
Responding, some of the IDPs including Pastor Sylvester Nambe, Madam Franca Aondoaka, and Regina Abaaga all thanked UNICEF for its support especially in the area of providing latrines, water and schools.