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IDP camps in north Nigeria

January 2017

Recently, John Kalma wrote to ET: ‘Hope you are all doing fine. It’s great reading mission information in ET International, which you graciously send me. I distribute the same to quite a good number of readers here in Abuja, Nigeria. Indeed, many people are blessed reading the Christian news. I personally travelled to north east Nigeria — Maiduguri, in Borno State, in particular — and saw things for myself (I am from that area). I decided to share this with you all, for your prayers.

The deplorable condition of IDPs (internally displaced persons) in north east Nigeria, particularly women and children, has reached a sad and alarming level. This crisis has been caused by the extremist Islamic group ‘Boko Haram’ (meaning ‘Western education is forbidden’). The insurgency started in 2006.

The activities of Boko Haram reached a high point in 2013, when they launched all-out attacks on churches, families, individuals, schools, business investments and marketplaces, subjecting non-Muslims to intense fear.

They continued these by bombing security agencies and government buildings, as well as invading towns and burning down entire village settlements. Men and youths were killed, and the abduction of young girls, women, and children became a hallmark of their evil activities.

Collaborators targeted too

Surprisingly, those Moslems who first collaborated with Boko Haram have also been targeted. The insurgents have launched brutal attacks on Muslim worshippers and killed scores of them in the mosques. Many too have been killed in the attacks on marketplaces.

All these attacks have displaced families and communities. As a result of this instability, some have fled to other, trouble-free Nigerian states, while the more unfortunate remain in their home areas and within reach of Boko Haram. Thousands now depend on charity for survival, as they dwell in IDP camps, whose populations continue to increase.

I have visited IDP camps in Maiduguri. UNICEF provide clinics in these, where they treat some ailments and refer others to hospitals. They also provide ante-natal and post-natal care for women bearing children. But the over-stretched facilities and poor living conditions are increasing the spread of disease.

Some camps have problems obtaining water. Women and children have to fetch water from 1km outside the camp, posing a serious risk to their security.

In most camps, the tents provided by NEMA (National Emergency Agency) are in bad shape and need urgent replacement. More shelters provided would ease many hardships. There is also a need for education for the children, as well as school fees for parents to enrol children in those schools that do exist.

There are severe cases of malaria and paralysis in some of the camps. There is an urgent need for anti-hypertensive drugs. Patients are being attended to, but the supply of drugs is grossly inadequate. There is a need for the food supply to be improved. Many children suffer from calcium deficiency.

Shared camps

Added to all these things, Christians have had to face further challenges through having to share the IDP camps with Muslims. There are reports that Christians have been discriminated against and denied basic food and clothing; Christian girls have been raped, and Christian children moved, without the consent of their parents, to predominantly Muslim areas, supposedly for a Qur’anic education.

Christians driven out of their villages by Boko Haram have had to share camps with the Muslim collaborators, who initially aided Boko Haram expel them from their communities. All this has heightened fear and tension and led to the setting up of two separate IDP camps for Christians, with the hope that this will mitigate their suffering, and allow them to worship God freely, as Christians.

In summary, there are urgent short-term needs for food, water supply (for low-cost housing camps), blankets, children’s clothing and shoes and health care. In the long-term, there are many other needs. Please pray that God will supply and care for his people. 

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