Women, children suffered more, IDPs recount lockdown ordeal



The outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Nigeria brought unexpected misery and hardship to citizens, especially those who were already being deprived of many social amenities that make living more meaningful. In this report ENE OSANG captures the experience of some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri in Borno state went through at the peck of the pandemic.

Nigeria like most countries of the world has continued to battle the consequences of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. While practically every citizen has been affected by the pandemic in different way, some have, however, been affected much more than others.

Some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, has opened up on the hardship they experienced during the lockdown period with the compulsory restrictions on movement during the heights of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.

For most, they faced a different kind of starvation even though it conceded with the Muslim fasting season. This is disheartening against the background that millions were reportedly spent in providing palliatives to less privileged in the society.

IDP’s from the Bakassi IDP Camp located in Maiduguri; the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Camp; and the Dogon Yaro Camp located along Damboa Biu Road opp Mashidimami Water; disclosed this in chats with Blueprint correspondent who visited Maiduguri after the ease of lockdown.

Within the period of lockdown, many Nigerians with sources of income complained about hardship they experienced, however, the situation was more excruciating for the IDPs residing in these different camps in Maiduguri.

We didn’t have food supply

Sharing her experience Hadiza Abdullahi, a 33-year-old woman from Gwoza who has been residing at the Bakassi Camp for over four years after Boko Haram attacked her village, said they stayed for almost two months during the lockdown without food supply.

She narrated how difficult it was to maintain physical or social distance in the camp with the cramped apartments they live in.

According to her, it was also very difficult because all their activities were carried out as a community where people mingle with each other and shared everything.

“We couldn’t gather together, nobody could go to the mosque to pray and you can’t go to the market, this was difficult for us at the camp but we try our best to adhere to the safety measures till today in order to stay alive.

“Different organisations came to enlighten everyone in the camp how contagious the virus is and they said we should run from it. They gave rules and regulations that will guide us, they said we should stop seating in numbers, we should not go to the mosque, schools or places of businesses, everywhere was closed down, and we suffered during the period.”

She recalled how they cared for each other especially when any of them was sick; stating that they always stay around the sick to help them recover fast but this was not allowed during the period.

“Before if you go to the hospitals you would see a lot of people in there before but not anymore even hospital workers wouldn’t allow you in except on critical situation and even at that you must put  on your facemask.

“There was one case of corona, they took him for tests and held him there. Nobody could go out with them,” she said.

Hadiza lamented that when the Covid-19 pandemic was announced, there was no food in the camp and everyone was tense because on a normal day they didn’t get enough food. So, they wondered what would happen if they couldn’t go out to go look for means of livelihood.

“We were tensed about what will become of us because it was the fasting period and there was no movement. We were usually given foodstuff but that period they didn’t bring any and so we stayed up to two months without food, shops were closed, and many fell sick but they couldn’t get any medical attention because everyone was indoors,” she said.

Covid-19 in the camp

She recalled how the camp was thrown into panic when it was announced that a coronavirus case had been recorded in the camp.

She said everyone became tensed and even some men were separated from their wives and children to ensure they don’t contact the virus.

“When the pandemic started there was no food in the camp, they usually give food every month but we stayed up to two months without food supply. Shops were closed, it was fasting period and many fell sick but couldn’t get any medical attention because everyone was indoors.

“Men were even separated from their wife’s and children, sometimes if you needed to go out they will say you should put on your facemask and they would give you time with which you would go and come back and some places if you go without facemask they would not allow you to enter.

“We were there like that until some started bringing water, soaps and hand sanitizer for us, some NGO’s came and did the little they can and we still use some of what they brought up until God brought ease for us,” she narrated.

Speaking further she said: “There was one case of corona, they took him for tests and held him there after four days they released him saying he does not have so they brought him back. Since corona started there is no other single case of the virus in Bakassi but it was just one person that got tested.

She, however, expressed disappointment that after the one case which got discharged after four days, no effort was made to test others considering the population of people in the camp, he wondered if the one recorded case was just to make them scared.

Corroborating her story, 42-year-old Mohammed said that at the Bakassi Camp, there are about 7000 households with up to 43,920 people.

He said that since Covid-19 pandemic it was only one person that was tested out of the over 43,920 individuals, adding that the one case was just a suspicion and they took him for a test after four days he returned negative, amongst the rest of that population no one else even showed any symptom of Corona up till date.

…It brought more suffering for women Women, children

Another IDP, 33-year-old Hauwa Abubakar, who resides in Dogon Yaro Camp explained that the Initial period of the pandemic was very tough for them.

Hauwa said though NGO’s came around to share facemasks and taught them safety measures and some of them had to sew the face masks by themselves, hunger was the major problem because they couldn’t go out.

“NGO’s workers shared facemasks for us but it was not enough for everyday use so those who could see sew theirs and even turned it to business, since we can’t go out to where they are selling, you would see it been advertised either N100 or N50 so you can buy and make use of it,” she said.

“Organizations like IMC, International Rescue and many other NGO’s help us a lot they have been coming to enlighten us, some came with cars to collaborate with some of us to go house to house to enlighten us on many things like what to do and what not to do. They do that all the time and we adhere to the cautions up till today,” she added.

She, however, expressed worry at the level of hunger stating that the coronavirus brought more suffering for women because they were always with the hungry kids and sometimes the children cry they didn’t have food to give them.

“We the mothers and our children are the ones suffering. A man would go out and leave you with the children it’s now left for you to take care of the children and there was not enough food, no money to buy because we couldn’t do any menial jobs to support ourselves.

“Corona prevented us from fasting because we didn’t know what to do, we won’t eat early in the morning and won’t have what to break our fast with and we couldn’t go out to look for food. They said they have closed the roads and even if they opened the roads we didn’t have the means to go and buy foodstuff from the market. Your child is crying and your neighbours don’t have and you also don’t have. That is how we suffered.

“If the children go out to beg they won’t have anything because everyone was being protective not to get infected so they couldn’t even eat because even his neighbours didn’t have what to eat.

“Coronavirus has made us go through different challenges a lot and they told us to be watchful at home, we should observe social distance so we can protect ourselves. We have protected ourselves but we are staying in hunger, you’re hungry but there is corona even the hunger can become corona, that is the problem,” she lamented.

Only pregnant women assessed healthcare

The IDPs decried the lack of hospital in the camp stating that during the lockdown anyone who fell sick either self medicated or went out to look for drug stores to buy medicine as it was only pregnant women who got medical attention.

“There is an ambulance at the Bakassi Camp but it is only for female patients who are pregnant but if someone else is sick they would only look for tricycle and put you in it and take you to the General Hospital or Umaru Shehu Hospital.

“The ambulance inside Bakassi is for International Rescue and they only use it for pregnant women, even if they take you there they won’t attend to you, except you are a pregnant woman. Even if you are a lady and you go there they won’t accept you unless you’re pregnant.

“If you are sick and in need of medical attention the ambulance wouldn’t take you except they take you in tricycle and the hospital only attend to only female patients.

“We had some emergencies but they didn’t attend to them even though they were old people they would say we should go to a bigger hospital, so we would have to look for a tricycle or a cab and go out. Again, the hospital only works till 2pm or 3pm and close, even if you have emergencies at night there are no hospitals, you would have to go to a pharmacy that sells drugs and knock so you can get medicines,” said Mohammed.

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