Ongoing violence and conflict are at the core of some of the vilest human rights violations all over the world. In Northeast Nigeria, the Boko Haram violence has resulted in the killing of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions. This report captures the experienced of women and other vulnerable people that were forced to flee their homes in Borno State, and the human rights abuses and indignities that they continue to suffer under displacement. The report calls attention to the need to address the human rights of people as part of humanitarian intervention. Read Full Report
Against the backdrop of severe drought occasioned by climate change, coupled with the destruction of homes and farmlands induced by the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of Borno State, the Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE) and Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) have launched an initiative for the development of sustainable livelihoods of displaced populations through agriculture. The intervention project which is aimed at devising ways of ensuring food security and protecting the livelihoods of those gravely-affected by the ecological impacts of global warming and related conflicts, is supported by the Development for Peace (Caritas Canada). GREENCODE and Social Action have commenced a Training programme on micro-agriculture, for women in conflict-affected communities within Jere, MMC and Konduga LGAs, as part of efforts at addressing the prevailing challenges to livelihood which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in Borno. The Training which kicked off on the 26th of June, 2020, showcased practical lessons on micro-gardening, as well as processes involved in the making of sanitisers and liquid soap. A total of 40 women making up the first set of trainees, were in attendance at the Training. The capacity-building project is expected to be a continuous engagement which will include follow-up activities with beneficiaries and other stakeholders in the food security sector.
Twice dislodged, both geographically, several inhabitants of Borno IDP camps are presently fleeing a threat to their lives, posed by the intense rainstorms and ravaging flood. Following the heavy downpour of rain witnessed within the last two weeks, hundreds of tents at various IDP encampments were submerged in flood water for several days. This could mark the beginning of the anticipated peak of the rainy season, this year. The flood water no more recedes completely, before the next rainstorm occurs, thus leaving vast areas of the IDP camps perpetually engulfed in floodwater. From Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA to Mashedumami Extension 2 camp in Konduga LGA, and many other IDP camps in the State, the flood situation has been extremely disturbing to the displaced persons, many of whom are crying out to the Federal and State Governments for urgent aid.
At the Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA, most of the makeshift tents have been swamped, with valuable properties damaged beyond repair. Members of the Civil Societies Network, operating under the aegis of the CSO Situation Room, who visited the camp, observed that the daily rainfall volume had overwhelmed the drainage capacity of the local area, leaving several tents submerged in the flood for several days. The overall environment was in an uninhabitable state, as many displaced persons had to abandon their tents, to wait helplessly in the open, till the waters recede. Most of the people seen at the camp, looked deeply saddened by the flood disaster, as they recounted the loss of their personal belongings. Life is yet to return to normal at the camp. The waters are not receding fast enough, and the rains are bound to continue in relative proportions for a couple of months, before the end of the year.
There are environmental concerns as to the state of the camp and the harsh living conditions which the inhabitants, particularly the children, are subjected to. The flood erosion washes away a lot of sand, leaving many portions of the ground too slippery for children and adults alike, to move across without stumbling and sustaining injuries. There are also health concerns about the transmission of water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases at the IDP communities which have become more vulnerable with a high flood-risk exposure. Coupled with the dread of a widespread transmission of the coronavirus disease at the IDP camps, is the fear of contracting other non-viral diseases through contaminated floodwater. Flood often causes improperly disposed human wastes and other decomposing substances at refuse dump sites, to wash away, into areas inhabited by humans. When the flood water dries up, these sediments could remain on the ground and cause diseases to people, especially children who love to play outdoors. The polluted flood water may also find its way into the pipes that convey the water which the people drink and use for bathing, washing, etc. Cholera, diarrhoea and respiratory infections are common diseases that are endemic in IDP camps and many communities in Borno State, during the peak of the rainy season.
Many IDPs wait helplessly in the open, hoping to return to their tents whenever the flood recedes
The rains have had a huge impact on the people in the camp. Alongside the loss of shelter, they have lost the little comfort they may have had. Whenever it rains, many of them are seen clustering together under a tree within the camp where they can find protection from the rain. This has become the very pathetic plight of many IDPs, most of whom are women, children and the elderly. Some of them who spoke to the CSO team, lamented the loss of foodstuffs and medical drugs, which they said were being stored in their tents for future consumption. The flood took them unawares and they barely had enough time to salvage any item of value, before their entire tents were overtaken by the floodwater. They could only flee from the tents with their children, to save their lives, they said. The imminent danger posed by excessive flooding, such as drowning and bodily harm, as well as the shortage in food, water and electricity supply resulting from the frequent damage to infrastructure caused by the rainstorm, makes the situation a perfect nightmare for the affected IDPs.
The CSO Situation Room advocates very strongly for urgent assistance to be provided to the people living in the flood-prone Shuwari 5 IDP camp and other IDP camps that have been affected by the rains. These people urgently need alternative shelter in areas that are not susceptible to flood. They also are in dire need of a fresh supply of food and cooking materials, as well as potable water, new clothings, mattresses, bedsheets, blankets and other essential household needs. Considering that their tents may have been structurally damaged by the floods, the Borno state Government and the Federal Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs should work expeditiously in ensuring that lives are not lost to the flood tragedy. In addition, there is the need for embankments to be erected around the camps to prevent an inflow of floodwater from the neighbouring streets, into the camps. This should be accompanied with the construction of flood ways to adequately channel the flood and divert it from areas inhabited by residents of the State. As soon as the flood is appropriately diverted, the government must ensure a timely assessment of the affected tents is conducted to ascertain how badly damaged they may be. Tents having badly-damaged internal and external fitting, should be promptly reconstructed. There ought to be sufficient plans put in place as preventive action for the potential risk of flood across the state.
With the rising spate of rape cases recorded in several States of Nigeria in recent times, concerns have been raised in Dalori 1 IDP camp in Konduga LGA of Borno State, about the need to protect girls by empowering them with knowledge through child-sex education, as well as information about Gender-based Violence (GBV). This has prompted the Borno State Civil Societies Network which includes Social Action, to launch a sensitisation campaign at the Dalori 1 IDP camp, with a view to creating massive awareness amongst teenage girls, about the dangers of sexual exploitation and the need to stay vigilant against sexual predators. The campaign which is slated to be a weekly sensitisation programme, commenced in June, 2020, and is aimed at reaching out to teenage girls who are referred to as Persons of Concern (POCs) in the camp.
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.
The civil societies’network, also known as CSO Situation Room in Borno State, has called on the Borno State Government and the State Committee on COVID-19 to engage more women as a strategy for deeper community sensitisation, in the bid to quell the coronavirus crisis. Within the last three months, the CSO Situation Room has been leveraging on the presence of its over 170 members across the state to support the State Committee on COVID-19 in public sensitisation and communication.
Borno State Report:
Muslims in Borno State trooped out en masse on Sunday May 24, 2020 to mark this year’s Eid-el-Fitr in large gatherings, despite the directive of the Presidential Task Force prohibiting massive gatherings, to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Nigeria. The coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella platform, CSO Situation Room, monitored prayer grounds in the State and observed that most people at the prayer grounds stood in close proximity with each other, and wore no face masks.It was also observed that majority of muslims flouted the directive of the National Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, recently issued by its Deputy Secretary General, Prof. Salisu Shehu, in a statement to the effect that, Muslims who did not want to observe Sallah prayers at home, should perform Eid at the area mosques to avoid unmanageable crowds. Many muslim faithful shunned the area mosques and converged in large numbers at the prayer grounds.
Civil Society Organisations in Borno State under the platform of the CSO Situation Room, have bemoaned the alarming rate of decline in the level of compliance of the majority of inhabitants living in State, to the laid-down COVID-19 protocol put in place by the Government to halt the spread of the pandemic in the State. Following the easing of restrictions on movement by the State Government and the re-opening of religious houses in the State, there has been a change in the people’s attitude towards combating the virus which some stakeholders reckon could be as a result of the feeling of liberation that came with the lifting of the lockdown. Complacency towards the fight against COVID-19 has gradually become the order of the day as many consider a resumption of religious activities synonymous to a return to normalcy. Hence, many people are now seen in public places brazenly flouting all the stipulated health safety precautions. They hug, shake hands, wear no face masks, converge in groups of over 50 and do not practise personal hygiene.
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.
Since Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 index case on February 27, 2020, in Lagos, the virus has spread to other parts of the country. Borno State recorded its first corona virus-related death on Sunday, April 19 when a retired anaesthetic nurse working with one of the INGOswas brought from a community (Pulka) in GwozaLocal Government Areas to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospitals and was confirmed to have died from COVID-19 complications. Since then, the number of infected persons in the State has increased exponentially, with a second death in April. In response, the Borno State Government embarked on stringent measures which included 14 days of total lockdown, border closure, restriction of religion and social gatherings, closures of markets and imposing general movement restriction across the state. Beyond the preventive measures, the state government has also set up a panel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outbreak in the state and has provided needed support through situation monitoring and implementation of government palliatives to ease the impact of the lockdown order its citizens. There is no doubt that these measures are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable populace. The spread of the virus in a place like Borno will not only aggravate an already bad situation of the people in the region but jeopardize all efforts at recovery from the endemic crises plaguing the region.
Borno State currently holds 70% of the 1.7 million displaced population in the northeast, most of whom live in displaced communities such as the formal camps and informal camps. The recent COVID-19 outbreak in Borno is from community transmission. An investigation into the death of the index case shows that the patient had no travel history to any other state or outside the country in recent times. Serious measures must be sustained to prevent a more severe outbreak in Borno, which would have a devastating impact in this already fragile state.
Limited access to medical and healthcare by members of communities, including IDPs, is one of the major challenges confronting people of Borno State, which already has an overburdened healthcare system that still struggles with malaria, maternal health challenges and other diseases. Years of violence by Boko Haram insurgents that attacked most communities in Borno have seen more than half of the healthcare facilities in the state destroyed, thereby subjecting people of the communities to hardship and misery.
Another factor that would militate against containing the spread of COVID-19 in IDP communities is the fact that most of the IDPs camps and communities in Maiduguri are overcrowded with several persons living together in small makeshift tents. Issues of personal hygiene is also a challenge as most IDP camps lack water and other supplies such as soap and disinfectants. So, if the virus breaks out in the IDP camps, it will be complicated to implement any of the prescribed global preventive measures such as social distancing, maintaining regular personal hygiene (regular hand wash) and staying at home.
It is also crucial to address the potential economic implication of the spread of COVID-19 on IDPs. Currently, the capacity of many of the IDP camps in Born State is overstretched with the daily influx of victims of violence into the state and settling in the various camps, thereby placing more burden on the limited resources to care for their needs. So the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state would further aggravate the livelihood situation and places more burden on the state’s meagre resources.
An outbreak of COVID-19 in Borno would impact women and girls who are already the most affected victims of insurgency and the humanitarian crisis in the region. It is important to reiterate that women and girls constituted 80% of those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the state.
The COVID-19 pandemic is also currently affecting the humanitarian work going on in the State. As a result of the lockdown order and the restriction on interstate movement, the pace of humanitarian work is significantly impacted. Most of the humanitarian actors including Social Action working in the state are faced with a rare situation of not being able to deliver on their already planned interventions despite the state government classifying humanitarian workers as essential workers.
However, rather than allowing the outbreak of COVID-19 to stall its ongoing work totally, Social Action in the last few weeks has developed and engaged in strategic programs that will help provide the needed support for members of the displaced communities to prevent and mitigate both the health and economic impact of COVID-19. Social Action is supporting the state’s civil society to address the need for public enlightenment and monitoring of the situation to provide a real-time view on responses to the humanitarian and health needs of the vulnerable populace. We are currently supporting groups of monitors to observe community responses to identify gaps and lapses in COVID-19 responses and ensure that all gaps are bridged by stakeholders, as much as is possible.
Botti Isaac is a Programmes Officer of Social Action