By Magnus Eze
Bala Yusuf, Secretary of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Durumi camp in Abuja is an unhappy man. Dislodged from his community in Gwoza, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents, he has been an unwilling resident of the camp.
Aside losing many relations, 30-year-old Yusuf, who holds a National Certificate in Education (NCE) also lost his means of livelihood. Although grateful to God for sparing his life, he is pained that IDPs are abandoned to live like refugees in their own country.
The story of the children in the camp is not different. Their education is not only truncated but their future bleak. No fewer than 176 of them were in primary school while 684 older ones were in secondary school.
In a chat with Abuja Metro, the IDPs’ spokesman narrated their plight, listing the challenges to include lack of accommodation, security, toilet facilities and above all, health care.
According to Yusuf, six IDPs died in their camp last year because they had no access to health care facilities, while more than 25 women delivered their babies without any medical attention. Three of the babies reportedly died during delivery.
Yusuf said the IDPs would have a sense of belonging only when the Federal Government provides them with the necessary amenities.
“As of now, I do not think we are Nigerians. We will become Nigerians when the government and other good people make us to feel like Nigerians”, he lamented.
Checks revealed that the 1,539 IDPs in the camp comprising of 1173 adults and 366 children had no access to health care until recently when the wife of Inspector-General of Police, Mrs. Agharese Arase, visited the camp and moved by their plight, directed them to get medical care at the Police Clinic, Area 1 in Garki.
However, Yusuf complained that their large number had over-stretched the facilities of the police clinic because of the myriad of health challenges facing them in the camp.
The number of IDPs in the camp has increased to about 2,300 due to recent influx of mainly youths from camps in Borno State.
Meanwhile, a directive by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for the IDPs to receive medical treatment from the Asokoro General Hospital has not improved the situation because the facility is far from the camp and the displaced persons neither have vehicles nor money for transport, especially in emergency situations.
Nonetheless, he commended the Chief Medical Advisor of Garki Hospital, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, whom he said availed them of medical care in the camp last year. He was also full of gratitude to Mrs. Arase for coming to their rescue.
“We are very grateful to the wife of the Inspector-General of Police, Mrs. Arase. Without her, I do not know what our conditions would have been now; because cholera, measles, malaria and other diseases would have wiped us out.
“Our condition is very bad. We want the Federal Government to provide us with accommodation, health care and other necessary amenities”, Yusuf stated.
Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had also responded to the medical needs of the IDPs in another camp when in conjunction with a private firm, Vantage Habitat, he recently donated a mini- health centre to the Wasa-Abuja camp.
Presenting the facility, the Speaker said it was when he went to the camp with food and other materials in January that he realised they needed medical attention.
“I remember in the course of the ceremony, there was one rallying cry that there was no health facility, and we promised that we were going to do something about it”, Dogara said.
Recall that about 10 children were reportedly killed by measles at the Wasa IDP camp while another 41 were confirmed infected by the disease last year.
Executive Secretary of the FCT Primary Health Care Board, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, had disclosed this at a five-day immunisation programme geared towards elimination of measles, which mostly affects children in their infancy.
However, Acting Country Director of Save Lives Foundation (SLF), Mr. Jude Nnadozie, said the IDPs deserved tailor-made health care.
Nnadozie, whose NGO recently provided IDPs in Durumi camp with clothing, food and one-off medical care, said it would not cost much to provide them with facility.
He explained that the facility could be set up in a container, plastic or wooden tent, stressing that asking the IDPs to leave their camp to Asokoro or any other hospital would amount to invading an already organised society.
“So, you have to give them their own tailor-made healthcare. For people not in their homes, there must be things peculiar to them. Imagine that IDPs go and take over Asokoro hospital and there is normal schedule already in place, say a pregnant woman wanting to see the doctor and she cannot because of the IDPs.
“I do not think that would help if you say they should go and take health care elsewhere. You know where they are and they are in large number. If they were few, you could say give them a bus every week.
“So, what you do is bring healthcare to them; bring a small team of doctors and nurses from Asokoro or anywhere to the IDP camp weekly or monthly, but they deserve healthcare. And if there is any special case, you can take it to the hospital”, he advised.
Nigeria has the highest number of IDPs in the world with over five million immates that live under vulnerable condition.
Chairman, House Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, Hon. Sani Zoro, confirmed the figure recently and explained that from the conflict-induced displacement in the North -East alone, as at December last year, there were over 2.1 million IDPs, a figure that, in addition to flood victims of 2012, led to an increase of over 4.5 million.
The lawmaker, who described the IDPs as vulnerable, expressed dismay over the inadequate efforts by the government to protect them in the 21 camps across the country.
His words: “We are also concerned that in the 21 camps where IDPs are located, it is absolutely clear that IDPs are in highly vulnerable conditions, as just last week, some IDPs were murdered in a fight at Maiduguri camp. The primary responsibility of protecting IDPs anywhere in the world lies with the state. Some IDP camps are not well protected and their (IDPs) protection is not guaranteed”, he said.
Zoro stated that the conditions of IDPs in many camps were so bad that everywhere, there were complaints of lack of clean water and other inadequacies, adding that, in a lot of cases here was total absence of healthcare facility.
Zoro assured that his committee would work to address the problems and ensure that all the basic needs are provided in the IDPs camps.
Until then, Yusuf and other IDPs, especially in the Durumi camp, look up to the Federal Government to attend to their problems as only this would make them feel that they are Nigerians.