By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – When armed gunmen identified as Fulani herdsmen invaded about 19 villages mainly in Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Riyom local government areas of Plateau State, all that the villagers wanted was to escape to safety. While some lost their lives in the ensuing confusion, thousands made it to safe places in areas where they are totally strangers.
Running in groups in search of where to lay their heads, they found themselves in available spaces now designated as Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps which number about 20, spread across Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South local government areas.
Having escaped from danger, new challenges stare the displaced persons in the face as many who escaped with just the clothes on them are now in need of other basic things like food, sanitary facility, clothing and appropriate shelter.
The displaced persons, approximately 11,000 are confronted with unfavourable conditions as the rains and attendant cold cause diverse sicknesses ranging from diarrhoea, cold, cough, catarrh, malaria fever to vomiting, among others.
So far, two people have delivered babies in the prevailing conditions, four have died and many more anxiously seeking to escape the horrible conditions in the different camps as people mill around the available spaces, defecating in the open and without access to clean water. Epidemic looms in the camps.
Though there is some level of intervention from the State Government, organized groups and individuals, the people desperately miss their homes and seek urgent help from government and other relevant authorities to enable them return there.
In the Mini Depot camp in Riyom local government area, there have been reported cases of diarrhoea and vomiting, the Plateau State Commissioner for Health, Kuden Kamshak and the spokesman of the Red Cross Society of Nigeria in the State, Masara Usman confirmed.
Apart from these, there have been cases of various degrees of injuries sustained as people especially the aged struggle to get access to mat, sleeping space and food. Four people were also reported dead but Kamshak said he only knew about the injured.
One of the deceased, an aged man was sick before coming to the Mini Depot camp but poor feeding, sanitary conditions and lack of quality medical care aggravated the situation. Two died in the same camp due to a motorcycle accident they had while going outside the camp to seek supplies for their families. An old woman reportedly died of shock at the camp in Ban, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area after a surveillance helicopter was said to have flown over the camp, scaring her.
At the Geo-Sciences School at Zawan, Jos South local government area where over 2,000 persons are camped, displaced persons are down with common cold, malaria, some are diabetic, and some have high blood pressure and do not have access to drugs.
Kamshak told Saturday Vanguard, “Yes, there has been an incident somewhere in Riyom, we have dispatch people there and they are putting up their report, we have intervened. I am not aware of any death but I know some people visited the camps and met people with injuries and they called my attention.
“Government is taking care of all the people that were injured so we said they should send them to Plateau Hospital, Jankwano or JUTH, depending on the choice of the patients and government will take care of the bills.”
At the time of this report, the Spokesman of the Red Cross Society of Nigeria, Masara Usman stated, “Over the past five days we have been going round the camps and so far, we have visited five camps and what we have been doing need assessment because there are required standards for any humanitarian organization to access or qualify for any intervention anywhere.
“We are collating the data necessary for us to be able to mobilize support for people in IDP camps. From the records we obtained two days ago, the immediate needs of the people are food, shelter, water and sanitation facility as most of the camps do not have any clean source of water supply.
“Most of them are practicing open defecation, you know this is rainy season; children play outside and get their hands dirty; this exposes them to all manner of germs. These people are actually hungry, they eat what they see and without washing of hands, so far, there are three cases of diarrhoea and vomiting at one of the camps, Riyom mini depot.
“We are afraid that if the relevant authorities do not act quickly to arrest the situation, the result may be colossal because in the five camps visited, we have more than 8,000 people there based on the data collected on 2nd July, 2018 but the number is rising.”
One of the camp leaders at Geo-Sciences, Ezekiel Audu stated, “We have over 2,000 people here and more are still coming in, we have series of problems, two women have given birth, children not having where to sleep, they are in the cold, having catarrh, cough, malaria fever and others. In the camp here as you can see, we need food, clothing, mattresses to sleep on and blankets to keep warm.
“We are renting mattresses N50 each, per day, as you came in, you saw a vehicle loaded with mattresses, the owner came in to pack them because we are owing him, we cannot afford to rent enough for the people, even the ones we rented, we could not pay. What we do is to spread them on the ground and whoever gets a place will lie down. We are lucky that some people agreed to accommodate those who gave birth.
“We are suffering here; we don’t want to stay in camp but to return to our ancestral homes, government at all levels should come to our aid and assist us go back to our homes. You can see women, men, old and young, children exposed in this weather condition. A displaced person from Gindin Akwati, Ngo Vou Gyang who lamented the helpless situation in camp made a passionate appeal that efforts be made for them to return to their homes.
According to her, “This is rainy season, we were running for our lives and we ended up here. We thank God that we are alive though we really lost a lot, we lost people, food barns and some people here, their farms were overrun by herders who took their cows to destroy everything in the farms.
“We cannot stay here indefinitely, see the condition here, no place for us as women to take care of ourselves, we don’t even have anywhere to sleep. If you don’t get a space on the mattresses spread on the ground, we spread our wrappers on the ground and in the morning, you continue with the dirty wrapper.
However, worried by the renewed spate of killings in Plateau State, women groups including the State Chapter of the National Council of Women Societies Nigerian, NCWS and that of Women for Women and He for She, (W4W He4She) have called citizens to eschew violence and embrace dialogue as a means of settling dispute of whatever form.
While NCWS in a statement urged the federal government to do all within its powers to fish out perpetrators and bring them to book, the W4W He4She called for the overhaul of the security system in the country saying reports from various quarters indicate that the security system in the country has been compromised in handling security challenges, insisting “We deserve security officers we can trust.”
The State Chairperson of NCWS, Mrs. Felicia Bala, State Secretary, Barrister Rauta Dakok and the State Coordinator of W4W He4She, Dr. Jophia Gupar lamented the untold hardship Plateau citizens are going through as the result of the incessant attacks, saying this time, “enough is enough.”
According to NCWS, “We commiserate with the entire peace loving people and Government of Plateau State over the killings and waste of human lives in the last few days. We call on the federal government to do all within its power to fish out the perpetrators of the acts and bring them to book to serve as deterrence to others in future. We call on all to embrace dialogue as a means of settling dispute and not taking up arms which leads to more problems.”
The W4W He4She has donated some relief materials to the internally displaced persons and are appealing to other well meaning individuals and groups to assist the people in whatever way they can.