UNITED Nations (UN) officials have warned Nigeria to decongest her internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the northeast of the country to prevent the rapid spread of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
Nigeria currently has the highest number of IDPs in the world, with a grand total of about 2.5m people living in makeshift camps after being displaced by the Boko Haram, insurgency. Conditions in these camps are far from hygienic and they are so cramped that this year alone, there have 15 fore outbreaks in them.
With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and many experts warning that Africa could be hit hard next, the UN has warned Nigeria to dismantle these large IDP camps. Edward Kallon, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said that since the beginning of the year, these fire outbreaks have affected more than 15,000 people in Borno State.
He added: “My heartfelt sympathy goes to the many vulnerable families who are affected. These are the worst fire incidents recorded in camps for internally displaced persons in the northeast so far this year.”
Mr Kallon lamented the fact that at least 14 people lost their lives in the fire incident in Ngala on April 16, with 15 others injured while seven are still treated in a clinic run by aid organisations. He also said that over 300 shelters were damaged and a communal shelter hosting 11 families were burnt down with more than 8,000 people already displaced by the ongoing Boko Haram crisis once again losing their belongings and shelters.
“With the Covid-19 pandemic slowly spreading across the country, I am extremely worried about the 1.8m IDPs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States and the rest of the nearly 8m vulnerable people in these conflict-affected states. Camp decongestion has been a challenge but it is now a priority, so I call on all stakeholders to urgently contribute to efforts being made to decongest camps in respect of people’s rights and dignity,” Mr Kallon added.
He revealed that together with the state and federal authorities, UN and international non-governmental organisations are working on an expansion of the IDP camps to mitigate the risk of fire incidents and Covid-19. Mr Kallon said one in two camps in Borno State are currently overcrowded with nearly 700,000 vulnerable IDPs living in terrible conditions.
Nigeria currently has 542 cases of coronavirus, of which there have been 19 fatalities. So far, however, the northeast has been spared the virus, as of the six states that make up the geo-political zone, only Bauchi has been affected with six cases, which once included the state governor.