War or in the case of Nigeria, insurgency, did take away people’s source of livelihood, their security and their freedom. It even took away loved ones, leaving with them indelible scars. This insurgency moved millions from the land of their forefathers to lands of refuge, changing their nomenclature from citizens to refugees and sometimes from indigenes to internally displaced persons.
Over the last eight years, this has been the fate of thousands of families in the North East of Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region. Many families have been cut off from their farms, markets and their work places; the cost of food, medicine and transportation, where available or accessible has become unbearably high and therefore unaffordable. These families faced hunger and starvation.
Worse than these are those whose communities have been overrun by the insurgency; where many able bodied men and heads of households have either been killed or maimed, sometimes even mothers and children are not spared. Their homes may have been completely destroyed, along with their farms and the food they had stored for the rainy day. The survivors of these atrocities have one option; to leave and find security and succor elsewhere. This is not minding the wealth they had, the size of their farms, the size of their families or the amount of comfort that their homes had provided. Most internally displaced persons (IDPs) have to seek out people willing to host them; other communities, friends, relations and sometimes even complete strangers.
The Africa Report on Internal Displacement, 2016 states that Nigeria accounts for 30% of IDPs and refugees in Africa; and according to NEMA, Nigerian refugees in Cameroon are 80,709, in Niger 68,321 and Chad 20,804. Most of these are returning home in droves. The Displacement Tracking Matrix, released in January, 2017, indicate that 1,899,830 still remain displaced in the North East, despite drop in hostilities, which resulted in huge outflow of the IDPs from the camps back to their original communities.
The IDP camps we hear about every day is populated by such families; some have gone far away from their homes to other states. These are the ones addressed as the internally displaced. Others have crossed international borders and are called refugees.
The IDP camps reveal a lot about the kind of people living in them. There are many camps in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, each bursting with people whose basic physiological needs have to be met by the managers of the camps; the food they eat, their health and their shelter. Most camps do not have adequate room and toilet facilities. The daily bill of such camps is staggering, even to government, which is already struggling to fund other budgetary items.
Well-meaning Nigerians and organizations, both local and international opened their hearts to those in the IDP camps, and helped them to meet the basic necessities of life. Some brought nourishment, some provided clean water, even clothing as well as simple tools for sanitation and hygiene.
Wife of the President, Her Excellency Mrs. Aisha Buhari is one such humanitarian actor who is fully aware of the challenges faced by the IDPs. As a mother, she is concerned with their condition and that is why, through her project, Future Assured she has made a lot of interventions and made a difference in their lives. She had targeted the weak and the vulnerable; these being women, children, young people as well as old people.
Young people (0-18 years) account for 56% of all IDPs, so they become primary targets of attention. 45% of these are male and 55% are female, 8.7% are infants below one, while 7.5% of all IDPs are above 60 years of age. Each of these group has peculiar needs.
The primary vision of Mrs. Buhari beyond reaching out to the IDPs with relief materials is to draw attention to the plight of these vulnerable Nigerians, so that others could see the magnitude of the problem and make their own contribution. Many individuals and organizations have keyed in, either directly or through her Future Assured Initiative.
In order to have a consistent, and standard protocol for providing assistance to the IDPs, Mrs. Buhari set up a task team of people who live within the North East to handle needs assessment and distribution of relief materials both to the host communities and the camps. She named the team Wife of the President’s Committee on the Distribution of Donated Items (WIPCOMDI) and charged it to identify the kinds of support that different groups of IDPs might require.
Over time, this committee had conducted its assignment and had delivered boreholes at IDP camps and host communities, clothing, food items – including bags of rice and garri, as well as cartons of sugar, noodles, macaroni and other items; sleeping materials including blankets and mats; enriched food formulas to expectant and lactating mothers and babies; baby sets including bath tubs, potties, soaps and body creams for the new born. These donations cover young and old, male and female and the basic necessities of life, especially in the IDP camps.
When our gallant soldiers conquered the insurgency, most of the IDPs began to return home, while others had to be encouraged to do so. Both sides require support to make this happen. The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) had indicated that 1,099,509 IDPs have been confirmed to have returned to their homes by January, 2017; aside trauma, these people have lost their homes; so returning to their villages means rebuilding broken homes and broken lives. It is a hard process, especially for people who have lost everything. There is a lot of community work and government reconstruction going on in these communities; that is why these efforts need to be appreciated and supported by all Nigerians.
Future Assured has keyed into this by reaching out to those villages through the committee, interacting with the villagers to know what kind of assistance they would require beyond the relief materials they received at the IDP camps. Resulting from this interaction, communities were supported with building materials including roofing sheets, wood and nails.
It is gratifying to see the IDPs overcome their displacement and return home to their initial livelihood. These formidable Nigerians will overcome their scars and rebuild their lives, thanks to the love and care they have received since leaving their homes.
Haruna writes from Abuja
Director of Information
Office of the Wife of the President