Nigeria: “People are suffering” - Displacement continues, leaving hundreds of thousands exposed

13 Sep 21

“This tent cannot protect you from gunshots. It can be flooded with rain and torn with a knife by any thief,” says Kubur, a man in his fifties who sits outside one of the hundreds of plastic tents set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Mbawa camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Benue State, Nigeria.

Life in a tent

“Life in a tent is nothing like living in my hut in the village,” says Kubur.

“When it rains, we cannot cook outside, but if we cook inside, we are worried that the tent will catch fire.”

Some 12 kilometers away from Mbawa, about 8,000 people live in a makeshift camp in an area called Ortese. They have been displaced by a new wave of violence that started in the area at the in April 2021.

Kubur and his family have been living in Mbawa camp, Benue State in Nigeria, which has been home to 8,000 displaced people, for four years.

"The number of displaced people in Benue has been rising steadily, from 160,000 in 2019 to 198,000 in 2020, and more than 220,000 people in early 2021"

The farmer says he wants to return to his village, rebuild his home and start farming again. But he is scared.

“If I go back, I fear that my family and I will be killed immediately,” he says.

“A tent in a camp is nothing like a village hut. Yes we are thankful to those who built to shelter us but I wish one day to go back to my village.” Said Kubur who lives in Mbawa camp in Benue state.

“My biggest concern is how to feed my children. I used to have a motorcycle but I lost it, and my legs cannot carry me far. There are few opportunities for me to earn money.”

Displacement in Benue

Benue is one of Nigeria’s Middle Belt states, which hosts the largest number of IDPs in the country outside of the North-East.

Mbawa camp, Benue State in Nigeria, which has been home to 8,000 displaced people, for four years. Displaced families there have been living in overcrowded tents.

The number of displaced people in Benue has been rising steadily, from 160,000 in 2019 to 198,000 in 2020, and more than 220,000 people in early 2021. Some have been displaced within Benue, others are from neighbouring states.

The Middle Belt states are plagued by inter-communal clashes, mostly between herders and farmers.

The conflict is largely driven by competition over land, water, and other resources.

Mbawa camp, Benue State in Nigeria, which has been home to 8,000 displaced people, for four years. Displaced families there have been living in overcrowded tents. There is no hope for them to return home.

Displaced families have been living in overcrowded tents for years.

There is no hope for them to return home and they have been deprived of their traditional means to gain income.

In cooperation with Benue’s State Emergency Management Agency, we have built shelters, latrines and dug boreholes in Mbawa camp.

But as the camp population keeps growing, there is an increasing need for services.

Mbawa camp, Benue State in Nigeria, which has been home to 8,000 displaced people, for four years. Displaced families there have been living in overcrowded tents. There is no hope for them to return home.

With few organisations present in the area, however, assistance is sporadic and falls short of meeting people’s needs for adequate shelter, food, water, sanitation, healthcare and protection.

MSF response

Just outside the camp, our teams support a Ministry of Health (MoH) primary healthcare clinic, and runs a clinic for adolescent sexual health, reproductive health, and comprehensive care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

When MSF teams arrived at the camp, they found people in very bad health. Many had acute watery diarrhea and malaria. Our teams soon set up an emergency mobile clinic, and treated 2,116 people between June and August.

Kwado Daniel, a community health worker who is working in the MoH clinic, says the situation has deteriorated since the clinic was set up four years ago.

"Patients come with bloody diarrhea, typhoid and malnutrition. There is little I can do to help them as we have run out of medicine in the MoH clinic. I feel so sorry for them that I sometimes shed tears."

Kwado Daniel, a community health worker

“People are suffering. The residents of the camp used to be able to find work on farms during the rainy season, but now they are all here, no one can farm. Other groups have taken their land,” he says.

Kwado Daniel, community health worker, Mbawa camp, Benue, Nigeria. “People are suffering. Patients come with bloody diarrhea, typhoid and malnutrition. There is little I can do to help them as we have run out of medicine in the MoH clinic."

“Patients come with bloody diarrhea, typhoid and malnutrition. There is little I can do to help them as we have run out of medicine in the MoH clinic."

"I feel so sorry for them that I sometimes shed tears. I myself had my home in Guma taken away, and I had to move to Makurdi.”

Martha, a resident of Mbawa camp, patiently awaits her turn at the primary healthcare clinic, carrying her four-month old twins, who were born here. She sees a doctor and receives medicine at the MSF pharmacy.

“My child has been sick. I took him to Doctors without Borders clinic to check him. They tested him  and told me he has malaria. This place is hard to live in.”  Says Martha who lives in Ortese camp with her husband and child.

“I have been having lower abdominal pains and felt weak since I gave birth to my babies,” says Martha.

“When I attempt any hard work, I feel sick, which is why I came to the clinic. It is my mother who looks for food for us; she sells items at the market to get money. When she is unable to go to the market, we remain hungry,” she says.

Preventable diseases and sexual violence

The people living in the camp are suffering from high rates of malaria, acute diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and skin diseases.

“They tested me at the clinic here and told me I have malaria. I have been having abdominal pains since my birth. If feel weak and faint.” says Martha, IDP in Mbawa camp.

“In the first six months of 2021 we provided over 15,000 outpatient consultations,” says Mohamed Ali, MSF deputy head of mission in Benue.

“Additionally, there is an alarming number of survivors of sexual violence that come to the reproductive health clinic whom we are supporting. We see an average of 24 patients per month who have been raped or subjected to sexual violence,” he says.

“I sleep in the tent on the dirt.  For several days my leg was hurting and swollen. And today it just exploded with blood and liquids.” says Uya, IDP in Ortese camp.

While conditions for IDPs in Mbawa are difficult, they are even worse in other areas of Benue.

Some 12 kilometres away from Mbawa more than 8,000 people - as of early August - live in a makeshift camp in an area called Ortese.

They have been displaced by a new wave of violence that started in the area in April 2021.

Some 12 kilometers away from Mbawa, about 8,000 people live in a makeshift camp in an area called Ortese. They have been displaced by a new wave of violence that started in the area at the in April 2021.

Given that IDPs in the camp do not have proper shelter or access to any kind of services, we started providing emergency services in Ortese in June this year.

Half of the people here are crammed inside a small school building.

“There are 20 families living in this room,” says Lebeta, who is sitting outside a classroom in the school building.

“I live in a single room with another 20 families in this building. We have no other place to go, and we’re lacking food” says Lebeta (left) who is displaced and has been living in Ortese camp since earlier this year.

“There is so little space that some of us spend the night standing.”

Others sleep outside, in makeshift tents made of mosquito nets that provide no protection from the sun or rain.

“We have nowhere else to go,” says Justina Ayaga.

“I fled here in April because my village got attacked. I wish I could return home but that’s impossible,” she says.

People in Ortese camp used to walk three kilometres to the nearest open well to fetch water, which was not safe to drink. When our teams arrived at the camp, they found people in very bad health.

“Now my main problem is hunger because we are left with nothing. If they give us food, I will be feeding myself and my nine children,” she says.

“There is no place to farm, so every morning the children look for a place to work to get money. Sometimes the children fetch firewood to sell so we can buy small grains to eat and survive. The food is usually not enough.”

Water supply is a serious concern

People in the camp used to walk three kilometres to the nearest open well to fetch water, which was not safe to drink.

When our teams arrived at the camp, they found people in very bad health.

People in the camp used to walk three kilometers to the nearest open well to fetch water, which was not safe to drink. Many had acute watery diarrhea and malaria. MSF set up an emergency mobile clinic, and treated 2116 people from June to August.

Many had acute watery diarrhea and malaria.

Our teams soon set up an emergency mobile clinic, and treated 2,116 people between June and August.

Water supply in the camp is a serious concern. Several attempts to dig a borehole in the camp did not result in finding water.

People in the camp used to walk three kilometres to the nearest open well to fetch water, which was not safe to drink. Many had acute watery diarrhea and malaria.

Our teams have managed to bring water to the camp by truck but this is not a sustainable solution, as the muddy roads during rainy season often prevent vehicles from moving.

There are very few organisations providing support to displaced people in Benue.

"We wish there were other organisations who could provide support, but the resources for Nigeria are limited, while there are so many needs."

Mohamed Ali, MSF deputy head of mission in Benue

Since 2018, MSF teams have been working in camps including Anyiin, Ugba, Daudu, Mbawa, Abagana, Life Camp, Ichuwa, and now Ortese.

Some 12 kilometers away from Mbawa in Benue State, about 8,000 people live in a makeshift camp in an area called Ortese. They have been displaced by a new wave of violence that started in the area at the in April 2021.

“We are concerned about the prolonged displacement, which is only getting worse. There are wide gaps between the assistance that is available to people and their pressing needs,” says Ali.

“We wish there were other organisations who could provide support, but the resources for Nigeria are limited, while there are so many needs."

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