Naka IDPs receiving their relief materials from VSF

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The Victims Support Fund, VSF, has said it would donate 500 shelters to homeless Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, habiting in dire conditions at the Ortese IDPs camp, Guma Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue state

The Chairperson Victims Support Fund, VSF, Benue State Emergency Support Programme, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji made this known during the distribution of food and non food items to IDPs in Naka Gwer West LGA of the state.

Mrs. Akerele-Ogunsiji said the intervention would provide the shelter need of almost half of the households in the camp.

Speaking on the package of VSF for IDPs in the state, Mrs. Akerele-Ogunsiji said “when we launched the Benue State VSF Emergency Support Programme in April at Ortese IDPs camp, we had announced that we are going to be doing the intervention in seven Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state.

“And the seven strategic pillars of this programme are food distribution, medical items, access to water and hygiene.

“In Naka we are rehabilitating the entire water works of the community. And that is because of the amount of sufferings these people have gone through when it comes to the invasion by the insurgents and the violent attacks on the women, children and the farmers of this community.

“So it is extremely import for us at the VSF to ensure that we are able to support them to a point where when this Programme is completed they sort of have something to fall back on.

“So we are implementing the project in eight communities in seven LGAs of the state including Gwer-West, Logo, Kwande, Ado, Konshisha, Guma and Oju.

“We are going to be setting up shelters and in that regard we are donating 500 shelters to the Ortese IDPs camp that would cover at least almost half of the households in that IDP camp.

“As regards the seven LGAs, we are here in Naka Gwer West, we are doing Ayiin camp in Logo, we have distributed in Kwande and Logo yesterday, today we are in Ado and Naka, the day after tomorrow we are going to Konshisha and Oju and then on Sunday we are doing Ortese and Gbajimba, both under Guma LGA.

And on Friday this week we are doing the official hand over of all the medical items to the State Primary Healthcare Board. We are donating three tricycle ambulances we saw at the flag off ceremony.

“We are also going to be handing over all the medical consumables and non consumables including drugs in terms of anti malaria drugs, analgesics, diabetes and hypertension. We are giving them wheelchairs, stretchers and everything that a regular Primary Healthcare Centre does need to optimally function.

“In addition to that we are donating 2.5KVA Solar powered inverters to Primary Healthcare Centres across the state as well. And we are making these donations on the recommendation of the Benue State Primary Healthcare Board. The Executive Secretary will be coming to the official hand over.”

On the intervention in Naka IDPs camp, she said, “the process of distribution of the items here in Naka is going on well and it is well organized. This is our third time of being here and 1,000 households with and average of between seven to 10 individuals per household are beneficiaries of the food items.

“This month we are donating rice, beans, garri, vegetable oil, salt, palm oil, hygiene kits, sugar and several other things. And as you know, alternate months we try to prioritize the balanced diet and the dignity of our beneficiaries.

“So next month we are going to be doing soya beans as replacement for beans and maize and replacement for garri. We want to make sure every month that they have protein, carbohydrate, fat and oil as well as vitamins.”

On the inability of the VSF to provide support for all the households in the Naka camp, she said, “there is no single organization that can address all the inherent challenges in any community.

“Even governments, there is no way a government during an eight year administration be able to take care of all the needs of the citizens in any community or Local Government.

“With the resources the VSF has, this is what we are able to afford because it is also important to ensure that money is properly well spent.

“In fact our monitoring and evaluation officer is here and we have designed a complaint and feedback mechanism so from next month we are going to be putting a big banner in all the Local Governments that we are supporting with the toll free line they can call. We want to hear the complaint and feedback from the beneficiaries to know which areas we can improve on, directly from our beneficiaries in terms of feedback.

“We have also launched the Value for Money Assessment, under our Monitoring and Evaluation project where we are able to juxtapose the resources put into this project and the outcomes and the results that we are seeing.

“We want to know, are we buying the items at the right prices? Just to also let you know that all the food items that were donated in this project were supplied to us by Benue state based companies.

“We are patronizing them because this is our own way of stimulating the local economy and empowering indigenous farmers here and also creating jobs because in those companies we asked to supply, people are loading and off loading, people are bagging and people are going to their farms to harvest cassava and fry garri and package for us. People are going to their farms to harvest rice, mill, process and sell to us.

“So beyond even the direct impact of the programme on the beneficiaries, we are also making long term sustainable impact on the economy of the state because we understand the challenges of the Benue. For a state with huge monthly wage bill and averages N400million Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, it is extremely difficult for the state to sole handedly provide the needs of the people.

“For us what we are doing is to augment the efforts of the government, going by the instruction of the Chairman of VSF, Gen. TY Danjuma on whose request that we are here implementing this project. We are  hoping that by the time we complete this programme, even beyond this tangible donations that you can see, next month we are launching our psychosocial support and mental wellness programme.

“Many of these IDPs have gone through trauma, some of the children who are orphans, some of the widows, men who used to be big time farmers are now jobless. Many of them are going through mental trauma situation. So we are launching our psychosocial support Programme.

“We are partnering the medical systems in Benue to ensure that every week therapists are visiting our benefiting communities to teach and guide them.

“We are also going to be doing a conflict sensitivity programme. We will train media practitioners on reporting emergency situations. We will build the capacity of our local stakeholders, our CSO partners and our media partners.

“Even beyond the Conflict Sensitivity Programme we are going to be doing a lot of work around data gathering and analysis and data management for emergency programmes like this. And I think those are things that would also benefit journalists..

“And towards the end of the programme we are setting up peace building discussions and mechanisms. We are appraising the nature of inter-communal clashes, within the state, we are appraising the situation of the farmer/herders clashes and local citizens care.

“We do not want to profile anybody in terms of any negative descriptions but we are trying to appraise the situation. We do not want to simply jump into the middle of the situation. We must appraise and understand in terms of accuracy what exactly is on ground and want needs to be done.

“And as part of our peace building project we are inviting the interfaith mediation centre to come and intervene for us because some of these issues are also religious and tribal in nature.

“We can have the Chief Imam of the state, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the head of the Christian groups, Traditional institutions, the farmers, all the stakeholders groups to come to the room with the VSF facilitating that conversation on how peace can return to the state.

“It is our hope that by the end of the programme by September/October 2022, the VSF Chairman, being a compassionate person will explore the possibility of ensuring that most of these IDPs return back to their communities to restart their lives all over again because giving people food and all of that is not sustainable.

“If they are able to return to their communities and farm, and we can set up a system for their sustainable economic survival on the basis of the skills that they already have it will be amazing and in that process you settle them in their communities, give them farm inputs, insecticides, seedlings, fertilizers to boost their farm productivity and output when they start farming.

“We will also be looking at how we can help them get tractors to plough and farm their land and generate revenue. We put them in clusters and that would boost our economic advancement programme which in itself is a stand alone component of this project where we are supporting at least 6,000 to 10,000 households with starting small businesses all over again.

“Also, as for those that are trading we give them money as start up cash, the ones that already have skills we also give them the support.

“But we are also trying to make sure that the businesses they are doing are viable in the long term because we have seen situations where you donate sewing and grinding machines to people and once you turn your back and leave they sell all of them. So when you come back you cannot really measure the impact of that.

“However we are still working on the assessment and profiling of the people that are going to benefit from that programme.”

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