By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in Benue state have
commended the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, for its various interventions in IDPs camps located in parts of the state.

The IDPs poured their hearts out when they received the outgoing UNICEF Chief of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh during his farewell visit to the Tse Uikpam IDPs camp in Guma Local Government Area of the state.

The IDPs who took turn to narrate how the global organization mitigated their challenges in the camps through life changing support initiatives said they would not forgot the positive impact UNICEF had made in their lives through such interventions.

Speaking for mothers in the camp, Mrs. Franca Aondona recalled how the IDPs used to defecate in the open in nearby bushes before UNICEF introduced Water, Sanitation Hygiene, WASH, intervention in the camps to ensure cleanliness and adequate water supply.

“Before the arrival of UNICEF in our camp we were defecating in the bushes. We were lacking portable water to drink, do our washes, bath and cook our food. We also lacked toilets.

“But all that changed when you introduced WASH in our camps. We now live like human beings even as IDPs. We can now defecate properly in the toilets you built for us and have water to flush as well as bath very well.

“We will eternally remain grateful to UNICEF because there is no way even the government can repay them for what they are doing for women and children in particular.

“But we will continue to pray for every member of staff of the organization wherever they maybe so that God will watch over them and their families as they sacrifice to put smiles on the faces of other people.”

On her part, the WASHCOM Coordinator in the camp, Mrs. Regina Abaha said the intervention of UNICEF in IDPs camps in the state helped to check the outbreak of waterborne diseases in the camps.

She stated that the global organization has also opened the eyes of the inmates to the importance of cleanliness and the need to ensure that the environment is not polluted therefore exposing the people health hazards.

“Majority of us are alive today because UNICEF intervened in our lives through the provision of toilets, water and other sanitary materials as well as several other things that ensured that we did not easily catch diseases and fall sick including deadly diseases that claim the lives of victims.

“That is why we cannot keep quiet whenever we hear the name of the organization but to keep telling the world that UNICEF has made the difference in our lives by doing things that mitigating our sufferings and challenges in the camps,” she added.

Also speaking, a septuagenarian, Mr. Sylvester Nambe commended what he described as the selfless service that UNICEF provides for vulnerable people.

“It is something money cannot buy because lives are save and people are giving every sense of dignity even while in the IDPs camps because the global organization believes that humanity must live well and healthy irrespective of where they find themselves.

“We can only commend you and ask God to continue to guard, guide and protect you as your members of staff got to unknown communities to help the needy. May God also give you the strength and courage to continue to do good to humanity.”

Addressing the IDPs earlier, the outgoing Chief of Office, Dr. Conteh recalled his visits to IDPs camps in the state and how he developed special interest in the Tse Uikpam IDPs camp.

He said, “I have been here for about three times, initially this camp was like and extension of the former Daudu II IDPs camp.

“We were told the story of how the owners of that school facility at Daudu ll wanted it back. So a goodwill ambassador gave this place for use as camp and because it is so isolated there were challenges of security.

So when I got that story, it touched my heart, and I fell in love with the camp. We know the situation that brought you to this camp and UNICEF has been with you from the beginning when you deserted your homes as a result of armed herdsmen attacks. Of course it is not only here, there are camps in Abagena and many others that have been established in the state.

“UNICEF has been there to provide support, sometimes not so much, sometimes a little bit more. But we work with other existing structures on ground to make sure that the little we can do for the children and the women that are vulnerable, that have been affected, we are able to do that.

“In doing that we have been working with the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASA, the Ministry of Education, SUBEB and a host of others.

“In all of these we try to work together providing the little support we can give to you. Though you are not the only victims. Even within Benue here there are many other people that have been displaced that are in different locations.

“Some do not have facilities like this, some are living in host communities, some are really suffering without having sources of support. So you are not the only one in this situation.

“There are problems everywhere, people are being kidnapped, people are attacked and all of that. In the world today there is so much trouble regarding conflict. So when I look at you sitting here looking very healthy and to some extent happy, I think that you are really in a very good position.

“I am saying all these because I do not want you to feel too bad about your situation, about your being here in the camp, about abandoning your villages and farmlands and coming to stay here because there are situations that are worse than what you have.

“You need to be happy with the fact that you are healthy and whatever little support you get from the government you make do with it, but there are definitely worse situations.

“One thing I like about this camp in particular which is also an observation from my colleagues, is the fact that you keep your environment so clean. The water tap area is so clean and well kept. The bathrooms and toilets are kept very clean.

“The fact that you are able to take care of your situation, take care of yourselves, not waiting all the time for support to come for everything is very encouraging.

“The things you can do, which does not cost you any money, do them. That gives real good feelings to all humanitarian people who come to support you because we know that you are able to take care of yourselves also. That makes it easy to give you a little push in your situation. That for me is very impressive.

“On thing I have also noted is that you do not ask for too much. When I came the first time, you asked for latrines, and then we brought latrines. Though not sufficient but it is a good start, when we have money we will do more.

“When I came the second, with the latrines done including water. Now you asked for schools for the children. So now were now going to bring Temporary Learning Centre.

“So I like the fact that you prioritize your needs based on the situation and also not wanting to ask for too much and maybe eventually you do not get anything.

“I think it is also easy because we do not have the resources somewhere that we just take. When you tell us what you want and we know the situation is really bad, we go back, look for resources and come over to take care of it. That is one thing I must commend you about.

“We saw that children have been learning under the tree in this camp. There are people here who have gone to school and are helping out, and with the help of the Head Master in the camp the children are learning.

“You told yourselves that you cannot wait for the government or UNICEF to come and build a school for the children, you decided that you will start somehow, even with a shade under the tree while waiting for help. I must say it is so commendable.

“I want you to hold unto that habit of trying and making your own efforts to do things so that when help comes it will be an added boost for you.

“Do not sit and wait for help because so much will go wrong by that waiting. Do something, come together and put your resources together, if you have the energy volunteer to do something so that you keep moving and then when help comes they will meet you already half way. And most of the time there is that motivation to support you when they know that you are willing to support yourselves.

“You know that the government tries its best, but the government is also overstretched because there is so much to do in so many places.

“In the humanitarian community, too many things are happing now. The world is in turmoil with COVID and with conflicts in so many places. So even the funding that comes for emergencies on humanitarian support or even development is not so much anymore.

“So that makes us feel that a lot of times we must have to start doing things for ourselves.

“But I can assure you that we are not going to abandon you, we will always support you for as much as we can. But also try to take responsibilities for things you are able to do for yourselves.

“This is probably my last visit here, my mission in Nigeria is finished, but of course my going will not change anything. The office will be here and they are going to continue to provide the support we will be providing as an organization.

“They are continuing where I have stopped, we know that the needs are still there and we will continue to do as much as we can if we have funding. So I thank you for all the corporation and taking care of yourselves and making sure that you get your children to school and let them live as good citizens. I hope that the situation that brought you here to the camp will be over someday so that you will all go back to your homes and live comfortable lives,” Dr. Conteh added.

In his comment, the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, Mr. Patrick Ihuma lauded UNICEF for giving succor to the needy and vulnerable people through its interventions.

While wishing the outgoing Chief of Office well in his new posting, Mr. Ihuma reiterated the commitment of the agency to work closely with UNICEF to impact the lives of women, children and the vulnerable in the society.

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