The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Wassa in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is another tale of displaced Nigerians suffering from different forms of neglect, including lack of potable water, toilet, and schools. PAUL OKAH visited the camp recently and files in this report.
The common complaint of IDPs in different states across the country is that they have been abandoned by the federal and state governments. This situation is not different at the Wassa IDPs camp, which is one of the many IDPs camps established in different parts of the FCT. Located behind Apo village, just after Waru and Kabusa, the camp is a story of total neglect.
When Blueprint Weekend visited the camp on March 8, it presented an eyesore, with basic amenities for human survival lacking. Hungry-looking men and women hoping against hope for survival greeted this reporter.
Camp leader’s lamentations
Speaking with this reporter, the chairman of Wassa IDPs, Geoffrey Bitrus, said the camp has more than 5,000 IDPs, but has been abandoned by the government for years.
He said: “Many of us were displaced by insurgents in Borno, Yobe and other states and had to come here for safety. Since this camp was established in 2014, we have been denied many things by government. This is the biggest camp in the FCT and we have 5,101 IDPs.
“There is no light here. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, donated a container for us years ago, which was to serve as a clinic, but there are no health workers there and no drugs. We once wrote to the AMAC chairman, Candido, and he sent two health workers to us, but they were soon discouraged by the lack of drugs.”
Bitrus said further that, “While she was in the Refugees Commission, the present Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, used to visit us and give us referral letters to the National Hospital, but the present High Commissioner for the Refugees Commission has never bothered to visit us or give us referral letters like Farouq used to do.
“Many of our women and children are dying on a daily basis. We have many widows and orphans here and require urgent intervention from government. Since August 20th, 2020 that Farouq came here, no government agency has visited us. If we can get water, school, clinic, we will manage our best. Many of us have degrees and NCEs, but no jobs. We have been writing to NEMA, FEMA and others for support, but they have been ignoring us.”
A cleric’s concern
Also speaking with Blueprint Weekend, the priest in charge of Christ the King Catholic Church in Wassa IDPs Camp, Rev. Fr. Stephen Meseda, lamented the neglect of the IDPs by the government.
“This church was started in October last year. The camp itself has been in existence since 2014. However, the IDPs lack basic amenities required for human existence, including potable water, electricity, and schools. In fact, due to lack of good accommodation, I come from Nyanya to the camp almost on a daily basis. We started to teach the children to read and write in the church, since there is no formal school.
“Due to the fact that there is no clinic, there is high rate of mortality, with many women dying during childbirth. Though some herbalists among the IDPs try their best, they are also compounding their health issues. Little children die of minor diseases. I solicit government’s intervention in the provision of the aforementioned basic amenities,” Fr. Meseda said.
Worried by the development, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Healthy and Smart Children Foundation (HSCF), in partnership with the Auxano Foundation and Yudee Excel Foundation, in their Pandemic Communicare Project, on March 6 carried out a free medical outreach at the camp.
The NGOs, made up of a team of doctors, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, water treatment experts, human rights lawyers, among others, undertook the diagnosis, treatment and counselling of many IDPs in the camp.
Drugs distributed to the IDPs included anti-hypertensive drugs, anti-diabetic drugs, multivitamins, worm drugs, anti-malaria drugs, anti-typhoid drugs, while free HIV tests, hepatitis, glucose, diabetic and other tests were carried out on some of the IDPs, even as serious cases were referred to hospitals in the FCT.
The founder, HSCF), Dr. Christian Oko, told this reporter that he was moved by the pathetic situation of the IDPs to mobilise other NGOs to intervene.
He said: “I visited this camp with members of my team few days ago on an assessment tour and we were not impressed with what we met on ground. We saw a camp of sick, malnourished men, women and children displaced by insurgency in the North-east and seeking shelter far away from home in the FCT, but evidently abandoned by government.
“At the Healthy and Smart Children Foundation (HSCF), since founded in 2017, we have been championing the overall well-being of Nigerians, especially less privileged children, hence we needed no second invitation to mobilise other NGOs of like-minds to offer free medical services to the Wassa IDPs, who are said to be more than 5,000, including pregnant women, children, girls and unemployed men.
“They lack potable water. In fact, you need to see the source of the water they drink. It is not fit for an animal to consume, let alone IDPs in Wassa camp. No wonder they have been falling sick and dying on a daily basis. We will make effort to clean their water. We also hope to drill borehole for them in the future, at least to solve their water problems. We can only do our best as an NGO as we lack sponsorship and have been funding our outreaches through individual donations and support from friends and public spirited individuals.”
Also, a trustee of Auxano Foundation, Barrister Mary Igoh, applauded the efforts of the team and expressed gratitude to Gaudiem Esp Pes Institute, Abuja, for supporting the medical outreach by providing vehicles for the volunteers.
She said, “We also appreciate the priest in charge of Christ the King Catholic Church in Wassa IDPs camp, Rev. Fr. Stephen Meseda, for helping to organise the IDPs and offering the church as venue for the outreach.
“It is a fundamental human right for all persons to have access to social security. The government has to look at the plights of IDPs in Nigeria to help communities treat the root causes of the sicknesses and abuses suffered by people we come across. Can you imagine that there is no single toilet facility in this location?
“They all engage in open defecation, thereby exposing the women to risk. I heard of a case of a teenage girl, who was raped and impregnated by another IDP. Of course, such cases account for the growing number of children littered in the camp. They get pregnant easily and bring fort children to add to the poverty circle.”
One of the outreach beneficiaries, Mrs. Aisha Musa, who hails from Gosa in Borno state and who spoke through an interpreter, appreciated the NGOs, saying she had been falling sick over the months and was grateful for the medical outreach.
“I came to this came in 2015 from Gosa in Borno state as we were chased away from our village by Boko Haram insurgents. We have been abandoned by government. We lack many things here. No school, no water, no clinic, no light and other basic amenities for human beings to survive. We farm to survive as they are no jobs especially for our men. Many of us have been falling sick and dying especially during childbirth.
“However, I am grateful for this intervention by the NGOs. It’s been long we have had this kind of outreach. I was diagnosed of malaria and typhoid and given drugs to take. I also received drugs to help my body system. My children and friends also received different drugs, especially my friend who is diabetic. May God bless the different NGOs to continue doing more for the less privileged,” she said.