BY PETER DURU
MAKURDI – The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has expressed its willingness to partner the Benue state government extend support to vulnerable victims of communal clashes in the state.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Office Enugu, Mr. Ibrahim Conteh, made this known when he led a team to visit the Buruku Local Government Council chairman, Mrs. Justina Sorkaa in her office and some Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps located in the area.
He said the team was in the area to see, feel and meet with the communities and the vulnerable victims that were affected by the different incidents of crisis in the local government area.
According to him, “various states are different in terms of the vulnerability of women and children issues. Our interventions and programme differs in different states depending on the needs of that particular state.
“Though UNICEF does not have all the resources to ensure that all vulnerable people are supported so we have resorted to prioritizing the most vulnerable in any given community.
“In Benue there is a situation which has captured the interest of UNICEF very much because when children are exposed to what has been happening here. The killings, rapping, abduction and other sorts of violence against children is of course of high interest and concern to our organization.
“Nigeria is signatory to the charter on human rights and if such happens under our watch there is obviously something we all have to do, first as a government and as an organization like UNICEF, we want things like that to be known and we want to talk about it.
“We want to extend support to such communities wherever we can get that. Our visit to Buruku therefore is to see and have first hand information on what had happened in the state. We have already met and discussed with agencies like the Red Cross and others.
“I believe that with the coming of UNICEF there will be much more support to the effort the government is making. We will definitely be a party to supporting the government’s efforts in ensuring that the people who are potentially affected by the situation receive appropriate support and protection.
“We are prepared to work with the local government council and the state. We already have an idea of the areas we want to support on a short term and on a long term basis as well.
UNICEF is already doing a lot in the state I hope we will do much more in the near future.” Conteh said.
In her response, the Chairman of the council, Mrs. Sorkaa said the visit of the team to the council clearly showed the level of commitment of the organisation to the well being of vulnerable children and women.
She said, “UNICEF is an organisation that is result oriented and its impact in the state is very glaring for all to see.
“The major challenge we are facing in Buruku at the moment is the issue of diarrhea which is a product of open defecation especially in camps where displaced children defecate in the open.
“Though we had in time past taken up the assignment of construction of public toilets to check the outbreak but that effort has not solved the problem.
“Many of our children were affected and displaced by the crisis. Many were exposed to diseases and as we speak we are still losing our children from the direct fallout of that crisis.
“That development has left us as the 13th., poorest local government in the country according to the latest statistics made available to us.”
Continuing Mrs. Sorkaa said, “during the crisis the only major support we got outside the state government was from UNICEF and we commend your organization for that. We urge all well meaning organizations like yours to come to our aid to help us get out of the situation we have found ourselves.”
Addressing some of the Internally Displaced Persons at the Comprehensive College camp, Ijer Mbaapen ward, the Chief of Enugu Field Office, who lamented the effects of crisis on vulnerable victims assured of the willingness of his organization to come to the aid of the victims.
Responding, the Chairman of the Peace Committee, Mbatie, Mr. Tor Tiav disclosed that over 12,166 had been displaced across the local government council as a result of the crises.
Tiav said, “all our farmland land were destroyed in the crises, we are facing a herculean task trying to gather ourselves together at the moment.
“Our people are still dying of hunger, right now many are not farming again and cannot feed themselves and the state government is already overwhelmed and need help to rehabilitate the people.” He added.
Buruku had been one of the local government areas of Benue state that suffered from several cases of bloody communal clashes leading to the killing of many and destruction of property and homes in the affected communities.