Saturday, 2 July 2016

See How rescued Boko Haram captives die in IDP camps

A loud explosion which immediately claimed the lives of many residents had frightened him, but the pandemonium which followed was what caused the 13-year-old boy to say what he thought was his last prayer.
With death staring right at him, Lekan looked to the heavens and took to his heels ignorant of the fact that he was faced with more dangers ahead. This is because a single erroneous step on one of the explosives or landmines littering the ground would have sent him to an early grave.
But as fate would have it, death was not going to take Lekan in the afternoon of January 27, 2002.
This was a dark day in Nigeria’s history as over 1,000 Nigerians were killed in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos state, following multiple explosions in the Lagos armoury.
The Lagos armoury explosion was an accidental detonation of a large stock of military explosives and ammunition at the Ikeja military cantonment.
The fire created by the debris from this explosion burnt down a large section of Northern Lagos, and created a panic that spread to other areas. As people fled the flames, many stumbled into a concealed canal and were drowned.
“As a witness of the January 27, 2002, Ikeja bomb blast, I understand the plights of those living in the north, especially in those areas terrorized by Boko Haram,” Lekan told us While recounting his ordeal.
“Have you ever felt you were a walking corpse even though you are still alive? That was how I felt when I was taken to a rehabilitation camp after that scary experience,” the Federal University of Technology graduate added in an emotion-laden tone.
“That is still the worst day of my life as so many people died that day especially little children,” 
But while Lekan could withstand high calibre bombs and still survive, that has not been the case for some rescued captives of the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast.
Boko Haram threat
The year 2009 marked the beginning of Boko Haram’s violent uprising as a series of attacks by the terrorist group made it crystal clear that a new terrorist threat was at hand.
According to Laolu Akande, the senior special assistant to the vice-president on media and publicity, at least 20,000 people were killed by Boko Haram between 2011 and 2015 in Nigeria.
Borno state has been worst hit by the crisis with a loss of $6bn while Yobe and Adamawa states were next in devastation.
The northeast region suffered damage worth $3bn in housing alone, while it also suffered huge damage in terms of livestock which brought about the need to restore agriculture in the region.
After six years in which the Boko Haram insurgents had turned the life of Nigerians into an unending nightmare, the Nigerian military began to turn the tables against the terrorist group towards the end of the last administration and after the inauguration of the new government on May 29, 2015.
boko haram
More than 200 of the Chibok girls remain captive
However, despite the military reclaiming territory held by Boko Haram, the living conditions of the captives rescued from the terrorists’ hideouts have left many saddened.
Boko Haram captives die in IDPs camps
The Boko Haram insurgency started in 2009, and between 2011 and 2015 more than 1.8 million people we forced out of their homes.
Today, there are over 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly women and children, from the insurgency in northeast Nigeria and another 80,000 taking refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, according to figures from the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The displacement of children from their homes is creating a huge problem for the region, as records show that northern Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children in Africa.
Regardless, the Nigerian military have continued to hunt the Boko Haram fighters as they look to set more hostages free from the terrorists.
However, recent reports of famine in camps for internally displaced persons have raised concerns within and outside the country. In a camp in Bama, a town in Borno state, 200 children are reported to have died from hunger, while many suffer from malnutrition.
This was reported just before the Nigerian military disclosed that it had rescued over 5,000 hostages held captive by the terrorist group on Sunday, June 26, while ten terrorists were killed in several clearance operations in the northeast.
Hostages rescued by the army are usually subjected to security screening and subsequently taken to IDP camps. It is expected that the newly rescued people will also be distributed to the different IDP camps.
Rescued Boko Haram hostages
Rescued Boko Haram hostages
But with the problems of food shortages and poor sanitary conditions presently rocking the IDP camps, concerns have been raised about whether food and other relief donated by the government and by non-governmental organizations is actually being given to the refugees.
Last week, the medical and humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières issued a statement saying some 24,000 refugees are in poor health, with at least 30 people, mostly children, dying every day.
Two weeks ago, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state paid a visit to Bama camp upon receiving reports that hundreds of malnourished people recently rescued from Boko Haram captivity were dying in a camp in Bama, 75km from Maiduguri, the state capital.
After seeing the critical condition of the refugees, Shettima ordered the relocation of 61 children with acute malnutrition to the intensive care unit of the Umaru Shehu Ultramodern Hospital in Maiduguri, where they are currently being treated.
Another group of more than 400 people with lesser cases of malnutrition were also moved out of the camp to a special care unit for proper feeding and medication.
More children are at risk of dying due to malnourishment
Nigeria is home to the highest number of stunted children in Africa and the second highest globally. Almost one in five Nigerian children is acutely malnourished and more than one in three children suffers from stunted growth.
According to the United Nations, over 200,000 people, mainly children, are at the risk of dying from malnutrition in Borno state, as the needs of refugees for food and medicine rise faster than these can be provided.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Mohammed Safieldin, made this shocking revelation at an emergency meeting with donor agencies and the Borno state government in Abuja on Monday, June 27.
Safieldin disclosed that if nothing is done to scale up interventions for food and medicare to refugees, the camps are on the verge of losing five children every hour.
The disturbing information came as Governor Shettima appealed to donor agencies to look beyond suffering in the IDP camps as some returnees continue to face similar shortages of food and medicare in their communities.
However, Shettima dropped a bombshell when he alleged that some NGOs are defrauding foreign philanthropists by appealing for funds under the pretence of trying to help internally displaced persons in the state.
According to Shettima, these NGOs take pictures of insurgency victims and share them on social media, targeting unsuspecting philanthropists to part with funds. But the funds, he said, ended up in private pockets.
He said: “I need to open up here by saying that in the midst of credible organizations trying to help us in Borno, we have seen occasional instances of some business groups masquerading as NGOs smiling to the banks on the agony of our people.
“I do not mean to disrespect any sincere NGO but there are those I have seen, whose only interest is to go round thousands of IDPs and figuring out sick and skinny looking infants to pose for the cameras with them and upload on the social media mainly to attract funding from concerned philanthropists abroad.”
How camp officials steal from IDPs
But just as Governor Shettima had alleged there were fake NGOs operating, a video clip and pictures surfaced on social media showing bags of rice purportedly from NEMA being re-bagged by officials of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency.
IDPs eating in a tray
IDPs eating from a tray
The video allegedly showed how corrupt camp officials divert rice and other items meant to feed the IDPs. In fact, just two weeks ago, some soldiers stormed the IDP food store in Borno state Government House and tried to force policemen on duty to give up some of the rice meant for the IDPs.
This resulted in a shootout that left several people injured. The situation was brought under control by the state governor and the military authorities.
However, an angry Shettima directed the police and the state security services to go after the officials involved. The Nigerian army has also said that those implicated in the corruption will be punished.
How FG can curb these malnutrition deaths
Nigeria has almost three million refugees in the various IDP camps, over two million of whom are in Borno facilities. Apart from the humanitarian efforts of international charity groups, the bulk of the burden of catering for the IDPs, especially in terms of feeding, has largely been left to the Borno state government. The federal government-run National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has also struggled to maintain services in the camps.
The government needs to address this huge humanitarian need at the same time as fighting the war against insurgency.
IDPs in Maiduguri, Borno
If the government can take responsibility for dealing with the IDPs according to international best practices, Nigeria will attract more foreign assistance and collaboration.

The government has an obligation to protect the IDPs and provide for their welfare until they can safely return to their communities. The Buhari administration must do everything possible to ensure these deaths from malnutrition are ended.


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