The International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, on Wednesday released a report indicating that over 50,000 persons displaced by insurgency in Nigeria’s North-east zone are living in extremely difficult conditions.
ICRC’s Head of Delegation in Nigeria, Karl Mattli, said the organisation has distributed food and household items to displaced persons who are taking refuge in Maiduguri, Borno State.
“Not only did people have to flee their homes in Kodunga, Kaga, Gwoza and Damboa, they also lost all their belongings and their means of earning a living. They didn’t have enough food and they lacked important basic items,” said Mr. Mattli.
“The additional strain placed on communities by hosting the displaced reached the point where it was more than they could bear.”
After carrying out an assessment of the situation, Mr. Mattli said the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross launched an emergency operation to meet urgent needs.
ICRC staff and more than a hundred Nigerian Red Cross volunteers distributed 960 metric tonnes of food and other relief items to 51,000 displaced persons.
Most displaced people who arrived in Maiduguri in the past few months were settled in government buildings, schools or official camps.
Some stayed with relatives or host families, with whom they shared scant resources, while others found refuge in informal settlements.
Whatever their living arrangements, the displaced cannot afford to buy their own food and, therefore, have had to depend on aid provided by the state or on the generosity of others to survive.
“In the short term, the aid we have just distributed will improve significantly the well-being of the displaced,” said Janet Angelei, an ICRC economic-security specialist working in Nigeria.
“The kitchen sets, blankets, soap, mats, hygiene items and tarpaulins we have provided will meet some of their immediate needs and reduce the burden on the hosting families.”
The ICRC also distributed about a month’s supply of rice, beans, oil and salt.
“Since fleeing our homes, we had not received any significant help,” Abdullahi Abuya from Konduga is quoted to have said.
“Some of us had barely had anything to eat for weeks, but now things are better.”
In cooperation with the Borno State health ministry, the ICRC said it has undertaken to upgrade the Mala Kachalla primary health-care centre in Maiduguri and train the centre’s staff.
It has built a water tower with a 4,000-litre tank and installed a solar-powered water-supply system and completed renovation works the facility’s floors, ceilings, doors and windows.
“The centre, which is now fully operational, offers general outpatient services with a special focus on children under five years of age, ante-natal, delivery and post-natal services, and patient stabilization prior to referral for secondary care,” said Bernadette Gleeson, head of ICRC surgical and first-aid programmes in Nigeria.
Because of the displaced people arriving in Maiduguri, the centre’s catchment population has now been put in excess of 100,000.
Meanwhile, the ICRC said civilians fleeing fighting between the Nigerian Army and armed groups have recently arrived in the Diffa area, in Niger Republic.
The displaced persons, mainly women and children, are said to have arrived from the Abadam area and Nigerian villages near Lake Chad.
The ICRC report indicated that victims of the crisis lost everything and are entirely dependent on host communities and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations.
To alleviate their suffering, the ICRC said it worked with the Red Cross of Niger Republic to distribute food to more than 2,000 people in Diffa and to over 3,500 people taking refuge on islands in Lake Chad at the beginning of October.
The ICRC listed other activities it has carried out in Nigeria to include visit to detainees in over 20 detention facilities to assess the conditions in which they were being held.
While it shared its findings with Nigerians authorities, its staff provided detainees with blankets, mosquito nets and cleaning and hygiene items to improve hygiene conditions and help make safe drinking water more easily available.
In Kaduna and Plateau states, the organisation said it restored access to clean water for more than 80,000 people, while also providing monthly food aid to 880 women in Maiduguri who lost their husbands in the ongoing conflict.
Again in Kaduna and Plateau states, the ICRC said it provided food and other aid for over 37,000 people displaced as a result of inter-communal violence.
In partnership with the Plateau State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the ICRC said it participated in a campaign to vaccinate 150,000 head of cattle and 50,000 head of sheep and goats in the state.
It also supplied fertilizer and maize seed to close to 2,000 families to enable them to restart their farming activities as well as sent a mobile surgical team to help treat over 70 people injured in bomb blasts in Jos and Kaduna, respectively.
In cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross, the ICRC said it provided first-aid training for 1,850 people and taught more than a thousand people, mostly from the Nigerian military and the Nigerian Red Cross, proper ways of handling mortal remains.