Displaced in the capital city, sick for help: Tales of Nigerian IDPs

Displaced in the capital city, sick for help: Tales of Nigerian IDPs

When Ladi Daniels was taken ill, she was more than 850 kilometres from home—on a camp for displaced people in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

This wasn’t her home state of Borno, already engulfed in insurgency crisis that had displaced millions.

Other people displaced from the worst-affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa—and now living on the camp in Kuchingoro, in the heart of the country’s capital—pitched in.

“She was very sick, and we gathered money and chartered a vehicle that carried her to a hospital in town,” says the camp director, Marcus Buduwara.

"There is no hospital here," a disappointed Buduwara says.

But a moment later, there is a quick smile on his face.

"We want to start one very soon," he said pointing toward the left of the camp’s open field. “See am there.”

“There” is a shipping container to be re-purposed for a proposed health centre.

Transcending differences

They are displaced, but not going down without a fight. Their camp at Kuchingoro lacks basic facilities, but they will stop at nothing to ensure every displaced resident on the camp gets health care.

It transcends differences in religion and ethnicity. As a whole, they come from different tribes across three different states.

Buduwara was displaced from his home in Bama - the second largest local government area in Borno state, northeast Nigeria.

Bama was one of the two major towns under Boko Haram control before it was recaptured by the military on March 16, 2015.

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One year later, the number of people displaced rose to nearly two million, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

That’s exactly 1,934,765 Nigerians in formal camps and host community across the country.

More than a year since the Nigerian military liberated Bama from insurgents, major livelihoods are yet to return, and Budurawa still lives on a camp for displaced people—and is now its director.

His task includes directing the donation of money to take any person taken ill to a nearby health centre 50km away from the camp.

He switches between fairly literate English and pidgin English to explain.

Especially when person (someone) is sick, we can gather money and take the person to the hospital, even N5, N5, anything that anybody can donate, people bring and we put it together and use to pay for the person.”

Churches, non-government organisations and visitors to the camp often donate money, food items, sanitary materials, drugs and other items to the camp.

"Sometimes, we can get, N5000 or N10,000," he says.

Trained to help

Most in need are women and children. Drugs - like paracetamol for fever and pains, flagyl and anti-malaria drugs – which may be available in the camp are administered, if the ailment is not serious.

Budurawa also doubles as the camp’s drug dispenser, doling out the tablets donated by visiting philanthropists, individual and corporate.

"When the sick person gets the drugs and after sometimes doesn't get well we can now take chartered motor and take them to Kuchingoro health centre (about 40 kilometers away from the camp)," he says.

Combined efforts help improvise for the sick or source funds to take the ill to hospital. It is so efficient, a pregnant woman giving birth at home is only on rare occasions.

When the occasion does come around, a birth attendant Mariamu John is on hand. She trained birth attendance with sponsorship by a non-government group.

To make a living, she also works for hire on farms in Nasarawa state, some 214km from the capital where her camp is located. As a birth attendant, she takes deliveries free of charge.

The women giving birth

Among women who have enjoyed her delivery expertise include Elizabeth Sunday, a 28-year-old woman who has a week-old baby, Peter; Asabe Emmanuel and Hannatu Ibrahim, both delivered of babies now six months old.

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"I had my baby here at the camp, Mama (referring to Mariamu) helped deliver my baby," Elizabeth says in Hausa.

Emmanuel delivered with John’s help six months ago. An indigene of Toshe in Borno state, she was scared during labour. She recalls how badly she needed to be in hospital. Without money to pay for hospital care and on the advice of older experienced mothers on the camp, she opted for Mariamu John.

"I born my child in March, she never sick since even me no sickness," she says in pidgin English.

But all through the pregnancy and after birth, she and her baby had never taken a single medication of any kind.

"No money for medicine," she said.

Two years already on the camp with her husband Ibrahim, a farmer, Emmanuel is taking to handcraft lessons. Non-government groups sponsor tailoring, bead making amongst other craft on the camp to empower women displaced by Boko Haram insurgency.

Emmanuel hopes her lessons in tailoring will be pathway to independent income, making clothes for women and children on the camp.

That will help support her husband’s wages from working as a farm hand.

But the ease of displaced people on the camp donating funds to help another is fading, says Hannatu Andrew with disappointment.

"Things have become more difficult," Hannatu, who was a nursery school teacher in Borno state before her displacement in December 2014, says.

“Before it was very easy, but now even to find N50 is hard for us now.”

The government and individuals have in the past put up fund to pay for care for some ill camp residents and pregnant women. The funds sat in hospitals to be accessed when a visiting patient identified as a displaced person.

"Before now, some people can go to Maitama General Hospital, Garki Hospital or any other hospital in the town and pay for 5 or 10 pregnant women. They will tell the hospital to treat and give medicine to any pregnant woman that comes from this camp," Hannatu said.

"Sometimes, they can even say the money is for any sick child or person, but now that kind of help does not come again, so we manage within ourselves.”

“If you find out that someone does not care about you, would also not care about yourself? That is why we do all we can to ensure all of us survive here and go back to our villages. Many people have died here, even little children because of one sickness or the other.” She continued.

Passing the buck

Their health concerns are not the concerns of the National Emergency Management Agency, which sees the Kuchingoro camp as informal.

“Where we have what we call structured camp, but in Abuja we don’t have camps, what we have are locations where the internally displaced persons are living,” says Ishaya Chonoko, coordinator of the emergency agency’s Abuja operations.

Structured camps tend to have more facilities and amenities on site.

“For example, the camps in Maiduguri (Borno state) capital) we have all the facilities in the camps. Maiduguri camps are camps set up by the government,” says Chonoko.

“These one, people who were displaced from mostly the three north eastern states – Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states - have just come to integrate with others.

Meanwhile, the federal ministry of health refused to comment on the issue.

The director of press for Nigeria’s federal ministry of health, Boade Akinola said: “Since it is Abuja, the secretary of health for the federal capital territory should be able to answer that.”

While the buck passing goes on among authority figures, Daniels doesn’t have to wait for any of the buck to get her to hospital. She will be just fine, at least for now.

Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that Internally displaced persons from Baga camp on Tuesday, February 5, took to the streets of Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state.

The protesters during the incident, barricaded a major highway - Maiduguri/Kano Expressway to register their displeasure.

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The protest were based on allegations of hunger and poor treatment of the displaced persons by officials of the Shettima Ali Monguno Teachers Village camp who handle their welfare.

Some of the displaced person who spoke on the matter said trouble started in the camp when officials of the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) visited the location to distribute food and relief items.

The protesters said, the visit by the ICRC officials was the first time they received food items from any group since the past 30 days.

Editor's note: This story was produced with contributions from Judd Leonard-Okafor, Chika Onyesi and Bukola Afeni of the IdeaNext team for the Thomson Foundation's Journalism Now Challenge.

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