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Boko Haram violence displaces 1.2 million Nigerians

IDPs in Maiduguri, Nigeria, February 2015
(Obinna Anyadike/IRIN)

More than 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes in northern Nigeria, the vast majority as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, according to the latest figures from the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA).

The displaced are mainly from Borno (62 percent), Adamawa (18 percent) and Yobe (13 percent) – the three states hardest hit by the violence. The numbers represent an increase on the 981,416 NEMA reported in January, but are likely to understate the scale of the crisis as the agency had access to only three out of Borno’s 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs). Two LGAs in Adamawa and two in Yobe were also unreachable at the time of the assessment “due to security reasons”, according to a joint NEMA and International Organization for Migration Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report released today.

The DTM report said 1,188,018 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba states. A further 47,276 are sheltering further south in Plateau, Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna, and the federal capital, Abuja. According to the report, 92 percent of the IDPs have been made homeless by the jihadist insurgency – the majority of them fled in 2014, a reflection of Boko Haram’s strategy of seizing towns and villages.

The IDPs overwhelmingly live with host families, with just 13 percent in “displacement sites”. According to the DTM, there are a total of 43 such sites in Adamawa, Borno and Taraba, categorized as: formal camps, comprising open-air settlements with tents; “collective centres” where pre-exiting buildings such as schools are used to shelter the IDPs; and “transitional centres”, which provide short-term accommodation.

IDPs in need

In 17 out of 33 assessed sites, IDPs had 10-15 liters of water per day, while in nine sites it was less than 10 liters -- the Sphere standard, the internationally recognized humanitarian rulebook, is a minimum of 15 liters available per person per day. On average, across the sites accessed, there was just one toilet per 368 individuals – the Sphere standard recommends one toilet per 20 persons. Borno was particularly badly served, with one toilet per 472 individuals, the DTM report noted.

There was “access to food distribution” in 20 sites, but only 13 received daily rations. IDPs in three sites, all in Adamawa, have never received anything at all. Only one out of the 33 sites had supplementary feeding for children or breastfeeding mothers, while “screening for malnutrition has not been conducted in 27 sites”, according to the DTM.

There was no formal or informal education taking place in 21 sites; 18 sites did not have regular access to medicine; and in 25 sites women and children said that they did not feel safe.

Mustapha Zannah runs a free school in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, that has enrolled 420 pupils – most of them children of parents widowed by the violence – and has 2,000 more children on the waiting list. He is personally sheltering two families – the husbands friends from childhood. “It is the essence of being human. When there is a dire need, you have to do whatever you can to help,” he told IRIN.

But while he is proud of the traditions of hospitality and community self-help, he believes far more needs to be done by the government and its international partners. “NEMA is really trying, it’s working, but it doesn’t have the capacity to handle a catastrophe of this size,” he said.

Aside from a humanitarian impetus, he believes the government should appreciate the security implications of not providing comprehensive assistance to those in need. “Life can be so terrible that when [Boko Haram] tells them there is a better place, and that place is heaven, they [the vulnerable] can easily be corrupted into this [insurgency].”

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