Port Harcourt — Assistance from Salvation Army: When the government announced its phased closure of relief camps penultimate week, it also demonstrated that its planned post-flooding assistance to IDPs, will not come quickly.
The State Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Mr. Joe Philip Poroma and Rivers State House of Assembly Committee Chairman on Environment, Victoria Nyechie, inspected the camps slated for closure. At the end of the exercise, both officials were quoted as saying they would get back to their various arms of government wi th a view to providing reliable information to enable government come up with effective post-floods assistance to IDPs.
On another front, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Emma Chinda who heads a separate State/Federal Agriculture Intervention Committee to assist displaced farmers restore their farm investments lost to the flood, also stressed that nothing would be released until a careful headcount of affected farmers and data determination of the extent of loss is ascertained.. Chinda also made it clear that "cash is de-emphasised in the planned agricultural assistance. We are mainly interested in providing physical farm inputs and materials towards helping the farmers to regenerate the farms they may have lost."
While government's intervention waits, hunger and mosquito attacks reign in the communities as majority of homeless returnees sleep in the open while rebuilding their ruined homes. In response to this urgency, the Salvation Army, the church group known for global charities and emergency response, has distributed food items and mosquito nets to residents of Ubarama and Abwunukpogor.
Major Joseph Mbagwu, Commander, Rivers/Bayelsa Division of the Salvation Army who supervised the distribution of the items told Vanguard Features, VF, that the gesture was part of the Christian voluntary group's efforts to assist the teeming flood victims to get back on their feet as they return home from the various relief camps.
"At the height of the flood, we navigated to these communities on boats to distribute food and relocate some victims. With the water gone, we are back to share food and mosquito nets to help them resettle in their homes. Government, we heard, is planning post-flood assistance for victims. But there is need for urgent intervention since the government could be slow in its response," Mbagwu said.
The food items which were distributed to a crowd of men and women who queued at the both Ahoada West communities' branches of the Salvation Army, include rice and beans. Commander Mbagwu who was joined by other corps subordinates declared: "The little we are able to provide certainly makes little sense because several affected persons in over 180 affected communities are now in abject lack and despair.
We just hope that our early move would spur other well-meaning individuals and corporate bodies to respond promptly as government cannot do it alone."
Chief Jegbu and his unsettled kinsmen want the government to act fast. "In spite of the challenges during our camping, we are grateful for all the care we received. The closure of camps have opened a new chapter of suffering as we return to hopelessness in our own communities.
There is much hunger and challenge of shelter and the invasion of mosquitoes. While government takes its time to fashion supportive restoration assistance, there is the need to deal with immediate challenges," he said.
Stay put victims: VF asked Chief Zebu why he and a few other victims were still residing in the camp. He defended their continued stay in the relief camp thus: "We heard that the government is closing the camps, but we have not been told officially.
The problem is that over 80 percent of Ubarama people returned to homelessness. Most of us owned mud houses. When the flood came, it washed away our houses and property. We therefore want to remain here a little longer. From here, I visit my ruined house to rebuild it as far as my pocket can carry me."
Residents of the flood ravaged town who were fortunate, only carried out the general cleaning and clearing of debris. Some of the early returnees had to battle dangerous snakes which had taken over their homes while they were away.