Between September and December 2015, no fewer than 450 children in some Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps in Borno State alone died of malnutrition.
The state government in a report many regard as highly conservative said most of the children have serious health issues because of the poor condition of the camps.
The Commissioner of Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia, noted that the number of deaths based on figures available to the government is 450 for children.
“Statistics shows that a total of 54,000 children under the age of five and below were recorded in all the resettlement camps, in which, 98 children (1.5 percent) had severe cases of malnutrition and died last year,” he denied that the figure of the dead toll was 450.
Nonetheless, the health commissioner was quick to state that the 450 deaths were recorded across IDP camps including adult and children as a result of common ailments and other causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and of course malnutrition.
Dr. Mshelia pointed out that all children under five years living at IDP camps were screened every two-three months for evidence of malnutrition, meaning a child can be screened up to four times a year.
He disclosed that in 2015, over 200,000 children were screened, out of which 6,444 were found to be severely malnourished and therefore treated through Community Management of Acute Malnutrition, CMAM, and Infant and Young Child Feeding, IYCF, programmes of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency, SPHCDA, and supported by Nutrition Programme Support Partners like UNICEF, Save the Children, SC, and Action Against Hunger, AAH, among others.
He, however, noted that the National Demographic and Health Survey Data, NDHS- 2013, revealed that even the North-East that had suffered much due to insurgency, has an under-five mortality rate of 160 deaths per 1,000, second only to the North- West with 185 deaths per 1,000 population.
However, Buluma Bugudu thinks the state government is living in denial. “It is double the figure. We know the truth because all the camps are poorly maintained and the facilities there are beggarly. We know for instance that cases of outbreak of diseases are rarely reported and even where efforts are made to inform the government nothing tangible is done,” he said.
Friday Magazine recalls that last year, there were reported outbreak of diseases in many IDP camps. In October for instance, outbreak of measles in some camps and some communities in Adamawa State was reported. Its proportion was such that the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, declared that it had assumed an epidemic status.
Executive Secretary of the Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency, ADSEMA, Mallam Haruna Hamman Furo, confirmed then that the outbreak was serious and required urgent federal government attention because it was beyond the scope of the state.
“There is an outbreak of measles not just in the camps but also within the community. It can be linked to the daily movement and influx of IDPs into various camps and the host communities in Yola. The development is natural due to constant entry of new IDPs who happen to be with such illness,” he said.
Furo added that following their displacement, many of the IDPs found themselves in very pathetic conditions as some of them took refuge on mountain tops and under trees without proper hygiene.
“Some of the IDPs came down from top of the mountains where they were trapped for two to three weeks so these types of ailments are bound to be with them,” Furo said, stressing that previously there was no advent of the epidemic in the camp. He said probably subsequent IDPs that trooped into the camp might have brought the disease.
Though he talked of the proactive measures taken to control the epidemic by ensuring the presence of full medical teams, Furo insisted that averting deaths from the epidemic would be difficult because of the daily influx of displaced persons into the camps.
Influx has not stopped. Instead, there has been steady increase in the number of displaced persons on the account of increased activities of Boko Haram in the North-East.
“All the children in the camps have been immunised against child killer diseases. The latest epidemic is under control because these cases are not beyond our medical teams and we are working hard round the camps, as well as the community to curtail the spread of the disease.”
The executive scribe urged the federal and state governments to step up the presence of medical teams in respective camps, as well as ensure that basic facilities are provided for the displaced persons. He also appealed to the Red Cross and other agencies to conduct immunisation for those in the camps.
Early this year, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, claimed that about 3,000 Internally Displaced Persons in Yobe State were “currently in serious danger.”
Its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said in a statement made available to the media, that “MURIC is constrained to raise alarm on the frightening situation in Kuka Reta IDP camp in view of the dangers inherent in the exposure of IDPs to such inhuman conditions. Apart from hunger, starvation, malnutrition and the likelihood of deaths, diseases such as cholera and diarrhea are likely to spread within the camp.
“MURIC is confounded by the enormity of the danger and hardship to which IDPs in Kuka Reta camp are exposed to. We condemn this culpable negligence on the part of the authorities. We therefore call on the Yobe State Government, the state’s arm of NEMA and all aid groups in the state to address the issue with military dispatch,” it said, stressing that more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in Yobe State alone.
Friday Magazine thinks that rather than continue to sweep under the carpet reported cases of outbreak of diseases in IDP camps, as well as cases of diversion of materials meant for them by unscrupulous elements, both the federal and state governments should adopt more proactive measures to curb unpleasant incidences in the camps.
Though there have been reported cases of sexual abuses in these camps, the government appears helpless as no one has been made to face the wrath of the law. As was reported last week, cases of rape and sexually transmitted diseases abound in most camps and often some officials of government agencies are alleged to be responsible.

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