CSO COVID-19 Situation Room urges Borno government to modify lockdown and ensure prompt, equitable distribution of palliatives in all LGAs.

As the three-week lockdown imposed in Borno State by the State Governor, Babagana Zulum, slowly came to an end on Wednesday May 13, 2020, many Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the State lamented the failure of the State Government to equitably distribute palliatives in all IDP camps across the State. There has been a public outcry in some Local Government Areas by IDPs who have not benefitted from the distribution of palliatives in the State.

The Civil Society network under the auspices of the CSO COVID-19 Situation Room, while on its field missions to project locations to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the State and sensitise residents on public health safety guidelines, gathered that some of the LGAs neglected by the State Government in the ongoing distribution of palliatives, are the LGAs that have been worst-hit by the Boko Haram insurgency in recent times. Some of them are Monguno, Nganzai, Abadam and Gubio Local Government Areas. The insurgency-ravaged communities in these LGAs also have IDP camps, but relief materials have not been distributed in those places since the commencement of the distribution of palliatives in the State by the State Government on April 26th, 2020.


Picture shows Governor Babagana Zulum distributing palliatives in Jere LGA of Borno State

So far, the LGAs where palliatives have been distributed include Jere, Dikwa, Gwoza and Maiduguri Metropolitan City. The Borno State COVID-19 Committee made it known that the distribution of the relief materials will be done in a turn-by-turn process from one LGA to another. But, given the untold hardship which the lockdown brought upon several poor families, the CSO COVID-19 Situation Room urges that the palliatives should be shared simultaneously in all the 27 LGAs of the State, just as the 3-week lockdown took effect at the same time in all the LGAs. The vulnerable people of Borno state, including those in the IDPs located in the insurgency-ravaged communities, have had their woes compounded by the effects of COVID-19. While the lockdown was in effect, several humanitarian organisations found it very difficult to get humanitarian aid across to people in the IDP camps. The lockdown also made it impossible for many people of the State who survive on a daily income to go out and fend for themselves. It is instructive to note that some households may have lost family members to hunger occasioned by the lockdown. Sadly, Borno State has recorded its own share of COVID-19 deaths, and probably COVID-19 – ‘related’ deaths caused by the hunger, deprivation, neglect and suffering occasioned by the lockdown. A total of 191 persons in the State have tested positive to coronavirus as of May 14, 2020, and though the risk of a surge exists now that the lockdown has been lifted, a greater danger was posed by the lockdown and the unimaginable hardship which it brought to many households. The CSO Situation Room is of the view that the government acted in the best interest of the people of Borno State by relaxing the lockdown. The government must now do the needful and ensure all palliatives, including the relief materials recently donated to the State government by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, are distributed across the 27 LGAs of the State at the same time and without further delay.

While recognising that the Borno State Government has been quite responsive to the plight of the people in the IDP camps that have benefitted from the distribution of the palliatives, as thousands of relief materials have been shared in relatively satisfactory quantities to some IDPs, it is unfair for the IDPs in other LGAs to be made to wait out their turn any longer, having been kept waiting since the commencement of the distribution over two weeks ago. Not only is the delay inimical to their wellbeing, there is also the possibility that the delay could put those LGAs at a disadvantage, as the relief materials may get exhausted, looted or may become contaminated and unfit for consumption, before it gets to the turn of some of those LGAs. The palliatives so far distributed by the government include rice, millet, semolina, macaroni, cooking oil and other food items.

Borno, being an agrarian State, is made up of mainly subsistent farmers, traders and menial workers, many of whom survive on a daily income. The economy of the State is to a large extent, dependent on the local businesses of the people at the lower cadre that make up the majority of inhabitants in the State. Now that the lockdown has been eased, many inhabitants will be able to resume work and earn a living whilst observing the public health safety guidelines. The CSO COVID-19 Situation Room having weighed the situation and felt the pulse of the people of Borno State, urges that massive sensitisation campaigns should continue across the State to keep the people constantly informed of the need to adhere strictly to all health safety measures in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 and forestall a need for a subsequent lockdown.