Helping The Displaced People

Opinion

By John Tosin Ajiboye

Displaced people are those who have left their normal living area because their lives or their livelihoods were in danger.

They have moved to a new area to avoid further losses of life and property, and because of the risk of further disaster. Natural disasters are one main cause of displacement.

Hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, windstorms and droughts may destroy or damage homes and livelihoods to such an extent that it is not safe or practical to remain at home.

Conflict is also a major cause of displacement. According to UN South Sudan Consolidated Appeal 2012, between January and October 2011, nearly 326,000 were internally displaced by conflict incidents in South Sudan.

Also in Nigeria, since the Boko Haram crisis started in some Northern parts of the country, thousands people have abandoned their houses to avoid being attacked while many have already been attacked and their houses have been destroyed.

In the same vein, for months there have been attacks on communities in Guma, Gwer-west, Agatu and Makurdi. Recently, the attacks have been extended to parts of Kwande and Logo Local council with settlements like Anyibe in Ayilamo, Moon, Ayiasa, Jato-Aka and Daudu coming under attacks by Fulani marauders.

Also in some trouble areas in Guma Local council, there are hundreds of displaced persons including children and women with their babies strapped to their backs. They also fled the trouble areas by trekking long distances for safety.

Because of the same nasty situation in Daudu, a town close to Makurdi, hundreds of internally displaced persons have relocated to Agan, a suburb of Makurdi, while others are found in North-bank, the Makurdi-Lafia road axis wandering helplessly, according to a report by NUJ Makurdi chapter who visited some of the trouble areas.

Also in Nassarawa State, Fulani marauders have allegedly killed 54 people in the past week in the latest wave of violence in some communities in Nassarawa South Senetorial District with over 70,000 displaced.

Plateau State is also among the statese where there are a large number of internally displaced persons due to the incessant attacks of Fulani marauders on the hapless and helpless villagers.

Local communities and organizations, such as the local church/mosque or other faith groups, are often already in a position to respond immediately to the arrival of displaced people. The desire to help those in need is often strong but the practical aspects of dealing with the sudden arrival of a large group of people can be challenging.

Here are some of the problems that displaced people typically face:

• They may be in poor state of nutrition or health.

• They may have been unable to bring essential household goods or food.

• They may have no assets because they have lost them in the disaster, have sold them to raise money or because of robbery.

• They may lack identity papers and/or travel documents.

• They may lack access to land and employment.

• They may have limited access to markets in their new area.

• They may not be able to access the health, education or other social services available to local residents.

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• They may be traumatized and in need of social support and/or counseling.

• Family members may be separated, including children being separated from their parents.

• Women and children in particular may be vulnerable to sexual exploitation or violence.

• Local communities may be hostile to the arrival of the displaced people and may be unwilling to share resources, particularly if those resources are scarce.

• Local governments may perceive displaced people as a threat to peace and stability in the area and may seek to contain them in camps or other confined spaces.

 

HOW TO RESPOND

Responding to the needs of displaced people requires generosity and a desire to ‘love your neighbour’. It is likely that the community already has significant resources to offer in response to the needs of displaced people, even if the community cannot meet all their needs.

• Premises and equipment such as church/mosque buildings, a hall or a school can provide quick and accessible short-term shelter for traumatized people. The compound in which they are located offers added protection.

• Equipment and utensils (sometimes kept to feed large numbers at weddings or other celebrations) can now be used to feed the displaced families.

• Volunteers can cook local food that people will eat, and they can organize distribution within the camp.

• Community leaders are usually able to mobilize and motivate people into responding quickly.

• Free medical services must be given to the sick/ wounded among the displaced persons and compensation must be paid to those that have lost their loved ones in the attack.

• Local knowledge and language help to guide displaced people in making key decisions whilst they are in a complex and unusual social environment.

• People in charge of distributing relieve material like NEMA officials should be sincere in distributing it and they must not divert it to other people

• Faith communities can also offer emotional support and prayer for those who are bereaved or distressed.

Lastly I hereby appeal to fellow Nigerians, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba and other tribes to be tolerant of one another and live together as one big family. Together we stand, and divided we fall. We can’t continue to live as refugees in our fatherland. It is only in the environment of peace that we can make Nigeria a good people, great nation.

Pray and seek for the peace of Nigeria and those who love her will prosper.

•Ajiboye,  a public affairs analyst writes in from Lagos, Nigeria via [email protected] +2348138966292