Humanitarian workers have pulled out of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The decision followed the outbreak of violence in the camp during a protest by the IDPs over the quantity of food brought in for distribution.
The Gubio Road IDP camp is home to displaced persons from 11 local governments of the state, and one of the 13 government recognised IDP camps in Maiduguri.
The needs of the affected population are enormous and almost insatiable, even with the team of government aid agencies and humanitarian partners.
On Saturday last week, displaced persons were angry with the quantity of food brought in for distribution and reacted violently, smashing cars and injuring some humanitarian workers until security forces contained the mayhem.
Following the incident, all humanitarian activities in the camp were suspended until the safety of the humanitarian workers was guaranteed.
– Two Bowls Of Sorghum A Month –
One of the IDPs, Ibrahim Abubakar, explained the reasons for the protest during an interview when Channels Television crew visited the camp.
Abubakar said, “We were angry with these people (humanitarian workers) not because of the sorghum they gave us, but because we simply asked for a quantity that would adequately feed us and our families.”
“Two bowls cannot sustain us for a whole month, no one can survive on two bowls of sorghum for a whole month; that is our problem. But if they bring food that would sustain us up to a month we would be happy.”
Another displaced person, Maimuna Kassum, said, “The protest was done because of the delay in food distribution and when they finally came, they didn’t bring enough. That was why people protested.”
“In the past, they used to give us rice but this time around they brought sorghum; two bowls for every family for the next one month.
“It won’t be enough since we have children and that’s why people got impatient and did what they did. With this kind of problems, returning home would have been better for us, it’s just that we don’t have a home when we return,” she lamented.
– Choice Of Rice Over Sorghum –
On its part, the Borno State Emergency Management Agency condemned the attack on aid workers by the angry IDPs in their camp.
The Chairman of SEMA, Ahmed Satomi, noted that the protest was not as a result of food shortage in the camp as claimed, but the choice of food requested by the IDPs.
Satomi said, “The Gubio incident is not an issue of insufficient food but a breach of communication, based on complaints by the IDPs over their choices of rice over sorghum while others preferred sorghum over rice.”
“So in the process, there was a delay for about one week while we were trying to sort things out and then an issue came up that if they are taking sorghum, the ration has to be increased.
“All these should not give them room to attack humanitarian workers, this is unacceptable and we are working with the security agencies to arrive at a common ground so that the distribution will continue,” he explained.
The SEMA Chairman said the efforts of the military has reduced the number of IDPs living in camps in Maiduguri in the last few weeks from 158,000 to 147,000.
He noted that the return process was, however, voluntary in line with the Kampala Convention.
Earlier, the UNHCR had stated that the needs of the affected population living in IPD camps can never be satisfied through humanitarian means.
The UNHCR’s Representative to Nigeria/ ECOWAS, Antonio Canhandula, who addressed a gathering in Borno State last week, said the only viable solution was to work towards returning the IDPs home.
“We can never have enough for the IDPs. We are talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who are in need and you cannot continue assisting these populations in a humanitarian form forever.
“You also have other humanitarian responsibilities around the world and there is competition for resources and then the best thing is to help the government to create conditions for people to return home. It will never be enough,” Canhandula said.