Poor living conditions mar fight against COVID-19 in Borno IDP camps, says CSO Situation Room

Borno State Report

Day after day, the sight of malnourished children living in deplorable conditions, has become a sickening phenomenon witnessed in most IDP camps in Borno State. Dilapidated tents, poor clothing and food lacking in basic nutrients, are the unpalatable hallmarks of human existence in these camps. At least, 600,000 people are living in the IDP camps located in Borno, having been displaced from their communities due to the insurgency that has hounded the State since 2009. Fortunate to have survived and fled the violent attacks that took the lives of tens of thousands of Borno inhabitants, these resilient survivors are now faced with a perpetual struggle to stay alive. Most of them lost their homes, farms and small-scale businesses to the conflicts.

idp properties

Dilapidated tents and poor clothing of the people lining in Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa.

Frequent visits made to some IDP camps by members of the civil societies in Borno under the aegis of the CSO Situation Room, have revealed a perpetual state of squalor which the displaced persons, majority of whom are women, children and elderly people, are made to endure daily.Most of the IDP camps across the State are highly congested, with each camp having about two times the number of people which the camp was built to cater for. Makeshift tents erected in tight rows, with worn-out wood and tarpaulin or metal sheets, aptly describe most of the accommodation provided in these camps.The CSO Situation Room has keenly observed that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has remotely exacerbated the deterioration in the standard of living in some IDP camps, with the State Government battling to contain both the coronavirus and the ‘poverty-virus’(a popular coinage which refers to the insurgency-induced poverty experienced by many displaced persons in the State). The maintenance of the IDP camps has been extremely unsatisfactory;dilapidated makeshift tents have been left in a terrible state without been repaired or erected afresh, in spite of the importance of shelter as a basic need of all humans.

Coupled with the problem of poor maintenance of the congested IDP camps, is the issue of a lack of sustainability in the provision of basic needs of the displaced persons. Several persons in various camps visited, told members of the CSO Situation Room that, from time to time, supplies of relief materials in the form of dry food rations comprising of rice, oil, salt, sorghum, etc, are given to each IDP camp and are distributed amongst hundreds of families living in the camp. But a regular provision of these supplies is not being sustained; hence, they sometimes run out of food. Also, they are rarely given fruits, fish, eggs, milk and fresh vegetables which are rich in vitamins and minerals, and this affects children the most, many of whom have died due to malnutrition. These problems have been identified as the major predicaments of internally-displaced persons.

A-makeshift-tent-ravaged-by-rainstorm-and-flood-at-Mashedumami-Extension-2-IDP-camp-in-Konduga-LGAA makeshift tent ravaged by rainstorm and flood at Mashedumami Extension 2 IDP camp in Konduga LGA

The arrival of the rainy season, has escalated the distress experienced by displaced persons at the IDP camps, with some camps facing a flooding crisis and several tents getting submerged in flood for prolonged periods. The observance of health safety guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, has become a herculean task for many people living in these IDP camps who barely have sufficient space within the camps to maintain physical distance from others, nor do they have sufficient water for regular hand-washing and cleaning of their environment.Worse still, is the fact that the inhabitants of these IDP camps face a high risk of infection, given the high population and proximity of the people to one another. People living in densely populated areas find it more difficult to practise prevention measures such as physical distancing. These IDP camps have certain reprehensible conditions that make them places where a community spread of the dreaded virus could easily occur within a short spate of time. Such a widespread community transmission will certainly lead to a severe humanitarian crisis, if allowed to fester.

The CSO Situation Room therefore makes a clarion call to the Borno State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria through its Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to, as a matter of urgency, set up an integrated structure for the sustainable funding of the IDP camps in Borno State. A comprehensive policy framework should be formulated for the regular sustenance of all displaced persons and maintenance of the IDP camps. It is also important for the government to build more camps and de-populate the already-existing camps, by relocating some of the displaced persons to the new camps. This will improve the living conditions of the people and reduce the number of human rights abuses occasioned by the inhumane conditions which many displaced persons have been subjected to over the years. It will also give the State COVID-19 committee, the room to enforce the social distancing rules and control the community spread of the virus. These steps have to be taken urgently in order to gain mileage over the invading virus, in the quest to curb the pandemic.