Strategies for Rehabilitating IDPs in Nigeria

Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria suffer disproportionately from different problems such as malnutrition, sickness, insecurity in the camps, lack of access to education, idles among others. The vulnerability of displaced persons is a major reason why sustainable strategies for rehabilitation must be considered and implemented at the shortest delay possible.

These strategies will provide broad methods to integrate the displaced persons into the society, empower them economically, enrol the children in schools and expose them to proper healthcare facilities. Across the globe today, efforts of governments, United Nations, African Union and other international organizations, experts from various NGOs and the academia on refugees and internally displaced persons are focusing on their rehabilitation. Among others, the Kampala convention which seeks for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons agrees with this.

The numbers of displaced persons in Nigeria increased speedily in 2014 and 2015 following increased severe attacks from the dreaded terror group, Boko Haram. From the Displacement Tracking Matrix in a report published in February 2015, over a million displaced persons consisting of 149, 357 households were identified in six states of North East and North Central (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states). Another 5910 households were identified in Plateau, Nasarawa, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna states.

National Emergency Management Agency’s statistics (NEMA) and International Organization for Migration also identified closely related number of internally displaced persons. It is clear that the figures may not be accurate considering the fact that some IDPs camps are not recognized by the government agency. Despite this uncertainty in figure, it’s not obscure that displaced persons in Nigeria today are numbered in millions. 53% of them are said to be women while 47% are men. 56% of the total IDPs population are children which more than half are up to five years old, 2.26% are breastfeeding mothers, 1.2% are pregnant women, 1.61% are identified as unaccompanied and separated children. 92% were displaced by the insurgency in north east.

Assessing the damages done to the Nigerian economy and social composition in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram over the years, the issue of Internally Displaced Persons is a great challenge to Nigeria. Efforts are made from various ends to recover and rehabilitate them but due to lack of a comprehensive roadmap/master plan of rehabilitation, there is no formidable combined effort. At this point, it is important to note that rehabilitating internally Displaced Persons go far beyond donating items to them randomly, it requires a deliberate research based plan which address the experiential challenges of the displaced persons and sustainable solutions, this will offer a strong platform for government and international actors to play. Lack of a research based master plan has weakened humanitarian interventions for displaced persons in Nigeria. The shocks, growing intensity and frequency of poverty, malnutrition, insecurity, lack of education, lack of skills and empowerment agree with this. In recent weeks, 450 displaced persons were reported dead due to malnutrition, at various instances, insurgents have attacked displaced persons in their various camps. The gap between humanitarian needs and the system’s capacity to respond is likely to widen before the end of 2016 if a research based mater rehabilitation plan for IDPs is not arrived at. Without putting this in place, vulnerable internally displaced persons risk getting engaged in a vicious sequence of violence.

Strategies for rehabilitation must come to play, tantamount to such which is been embarked upon by the Women and Child Watch Initiative in order to completely integrate the displaced persons into the society. These strategies for rehabilitation will give clarity to the roles available to the Federal and state governments, public and private donors, national and local leaders, and international actors to address and respond to the growing number of challenges confronting displaced persons in Nigeria. If not explored, the vulnerability of the IDPs may instigate intolerant attitudes, radicalism, and theft among other social vices that could bring unrest. A highlight of innovations that could broaden and strengthen government and international actor in the face of expanding challenges will be assessed briefly for the purpose of this article.

Engaging local NGOs/Researchers: It is imperative for government and international actors to engage local NGOs and researchers who are committed to rehabilitation of displaced persons in Nigeria. The aim of engaging them is to gather thematic challenges confronting the displaced persons and the solutions to such challenges. In relation to Women and Child Watch Initiative is doing as an NGO, questionnaires that address different areas such as gender based violence in the camps, emotional trauma, health challenges, child right in the camps among others should be developed in order to produce a research based result on IDPs rehabilitation.

Awareness and Advocacy: More awareness should be incessantly raised to draw attention of private and international donors to the plight of displaced persons in Nigeria. Such awareness must be researched based. This will motivate donors to contribute immensely to the rehabilitation process of IDPs in Nigeria. This will strengthen humanitarian response to internally displaced persons.

The pressing areas that interventions should cover include:

Security: In September 2015, the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram, in a suicide mission, attacked members of IDPs Camps in Madagali and Yola, killing 12 persons. In one of the attacks, bombs were reported to have been detonated inside a tent at the IDP camp. This among others are security threats faced by members of IDP camps in Nigeria. Yet to recover from psychological trauma from the loss of families, friends and properties, displaced persons are faced with security challenges coupled with a responsibility to protect themselves in their various camps. The inadequacy of security at the IDP camps opens them to attacks from terrorists and armed robbers.

Nutrition and Welfare: In February 2016, news reported that 450 internally displaced persons died of malnutrition ( ). Feeding is key to sustenance of life, thus, fair distribution of food items should be provided particularly for breast feeding mothers and children at the IDPs camps.

Shelter: In February 2016, IDPs in Gwoza were evacuated, and many of them protested since they have no home to lay their heads. Provision for shelter should be made adequate and durable for the IDPs; this is a fundamental step towards their recovery.

Olawale Rotimi can be reached via [email protected] or +2348105508224

Kind Regards,
Olawale Rotimi,
B.A, M.A Ilorin, DELF Paris.
Twitter: @RotimiLawale
"You have to justify the space you occupy on earth by making an impact"

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Articles by Rotimi Olawale