30 Aug

Refugees in crisis – A look into the state of IDP camps

Globally, only eight countries host a higher number of displaced persons than Nigeria. The five-year Boko Haram insurgency has led to the creation of the worst humanitarian crisis to occur within Nigeria’s borders since the civil war. According to a 2015 report by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council, Nigeria has 2,152,000 million persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. The UN says 4.5 million people need food aid across the north-east. UNICEF says an estimated 134 children may be dying daily in camps for Internally Displaced Persons, while the aid group, Doctors Without Borders says nearly 200 refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks have died of starvation and dehydration in Bama camp, one of 27 such camps, alone.

Unfortunately, the official policy on IDPs can only be characterised as reactionary. The 2016 Appropriation Bill allocates the a sum of ₦10 billion for the welfare of IDPs, in addition to funds raised by the Presidential Committee on the Boko Haram Victims Support Fund, a ₦55 billion initiative (of which ₦33 billion in pledged contributions are yet to be realised) commissioned in 2014 under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, and primarily composed of high net worth Nigerians. The National Policy on IDPs, first mooted in 2006, and based largely on the UN General Assembly Guiding Principles on the Prevention and Management of Internal Displacement in 1998, with a final white paper in 2012 has not been adopted by either the past or current administrations.

Towards the end of July, and in the first two weeks of August, SBM visited five refugee camps around Maiduguri. Multiple respondents to our enquiries reported a high risk of protein-deficiency diseases. Meals at a majority of the camps currently consist solely of rice, beans and a little oil to colour the rice to make it look more appealing and so ensure that photos don’t reveal the true state.

We were able to obtain a video of this.

During our visits we found the following:

  • There are at least 27 formal camps in the whole of Borno, the hardest hit of the north-eastern states; in Maiduguri alone, there are 22 formal camps and almost an equal number of informal ones.
  • Our visits have shown that those camps that have more military supervision are better run.
  • For those refugees lucky enough to get multiple meals a day, the menu is unchanged so they get the exact same meal twice a day, every day.
  • Each household receives a shovel of food per meal. The food is put in buckets, most of which had been used earlier in the day for bathing purposes.
  • In some camps, NEMA officials accompany visitors to monitor the gifts given to the IDPs, and to discourage residents from offering information on the state of the camps.
  • Residents are mostly banned from leaving, and as a result, some young women are known to have resorted to offering sex in exchanging for being permitted to leave camp.
  • There has been a rise in tougher measures being carried out by officials in order to keep a lid on the camp’s activities.

Evidence shows that the IDPs are not receiving the resources that ought to get to them. Those responsible for the mismanagement, diversion and abuse the IDPs have suffered should be brought to book. From our interviews we believe that the likelihood that individual and NGO efforts will increase when they observe that the government led efforts are well managed is high. We recommend that in future, donors balance the food supplies with packs of seasoning and food items rich in protein.

201608_IDP camps

Download the complete report (11 pages)