19 July 2018

Nigeria: Benue - Concerns As Measles, Malnutrition Take Toll On IDPs

With over 22,000 out of about 27,000 children in Daudu, Guma and Abagena Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Benue State malnourished, the deplorable living conditions in the camps call for urgent attention.

Like several other IDPs across the country, those in Benue state are faced with severe humanitarian crisis as starvation and disease outbreaks take huge toll on them.

Indeed, what could pass for a health challenge of high magnitude is lurking its ugly head at one of the numerous internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Benue state where there are heightened fears of possible outbreak of an epidemic.

Benue state has had its fair share of crisis occasioned largely by the lingering security challenges.

It is no longer news that scores of persons have been hacked to death by suspected killer herdsmen who have embarked on onslaught against the residents of communities across the state.

Of course, these killings have led to displacement of persons most of whom desert their natural abode to seek for safety at what is known as IDPs camp which are located in different parts of the state.

While inmates of these camps are naturally happy that they are alive to tell the story of what led to their displacement, some inherent imbalance in the camps where they currently tenant is raising serious source of concern especially with the likely threats to their lives.

One of such camps is the Abengana IDPs camp located along Makurdi- Lafia road.

The camp, according to available statistics, is hosting over 36,000 inmates, most of who appear to be battling to cope with the dearth of some essentials necessary for survival.

Our correspondent who visited the camp recently reports that most of the

IDPs are looking malnourished suggesting that something is fundamentally flawed as far as their feeding is concerned.

More worrisome is the fear of possible out break of epidemic. As at the last count, about seven persons were feared dead following outbreak of measles at the Camp.

Mr. Tyowua Orshio is one of the IDPs living in Abengana camp.

He told our reporter that two of his children were took ills and were certified to have contacted measles, noting that the camp recorded several deaths in the last nine days following the outbreak of the disease that hit the camp.

According to him, the intervention of the health personnel in the camp through provision of drugs had help to save the lives of some of his sick children even though their condition seems not to be getting better.

Although stakeholders at different levels have taken steps to address the situation, LEADERSHIP checks revealed that some children have died as a result of measles outbreak while many other are facing what experts described as acute malnutrition.

Speaking in a not so dissimilar manner, another internally displaced person, Sarah Tyohen, told our reporter that about three pregnant women who were allegedly infected by measles had miscarriages.

Tyohen who sobbed intermittently while talking to LEADERSHIP said, "in fact, I know some of the women and even as I talk, I am feeling a sense of personal loss".

Although attempts to get actual figure of deaths recorded occasioned by the disease were fruitless, a camp official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that 10 Persons have died of other diseases apart from measles.

Iorchir Terlumun is with the Benue Non Governmental Organisations Network, BENGONET, a network of different Non Governmental Organisations operating in the state.

BENGONET, it was observed, has been in the forefront of rendering medical and health related services at the camp.

Terlumun disclosed that a total of 23 children have been treated with measles in the camp.

"We have identified about seventeen children with severe cases of measles and we have referred them to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital for proper medical attention, while six others minimal cases were treated within the camp.

Chairman of Religious Freedom Coalition, William J. Murray, who came from USA, to pay a visit to the IDPs in the state expressed worry over the humanitarian situation at some of the camps even as he called for urgent action.

Murray told newsmen, during his visit to the IDPs Camp to assess the humanitarian situation and other conditions that there was the need for urgent and necessary assistance to the internally displaced persons.

It was clearly established that, currently, the most prevalent problem in the camp as of today is hunger and starvation.

Most of the IDPs reiterated their earlier calls on both the state and federal governments to provide enough security for them to go back to their ancestral homes to continued with their farming activities to enable them cater for themselves rather than depending on government and other organisations for survival.

A father of six children, Hyacinth Orjir, stated that his wife and children have been feeding from hand to mouth following the gross shortage of food in the camp.

"I am from Yelwata in Guma Local government area of Benue state, I found myself in the camp because of the crises where all our houses and crops destroyed by this herdsmen.

"How can a married man with many children be staying in this kind of environment for over 6 months, the food they are giving us here is not enough. How can about 40 families be sharing one bag of rice, he asked rhetorically.

Apart from the case of measles, there is still problem of hygiene as the camps are not well maintained fuelling concerns that the unhygienic nature more act additional avenues for more disease outbreaks.

In related development, findings indicated that 22,000 out of the 27,454 children currently taking refuge in the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps at Daudu, Guma local government area and Abagena in the outskirts of Makurdi are malnourished.

It was gathered that majority of the children in the two camps could hardly have enough to eat even as they defecate in the open.

At the LGEA Primary School camp and the Shelter Camp, all in Daudu, the health personnel in charge of both camps, an Assistant Chief Nursing

Officer and a Nurse/Midwife, disclosed that most of the over 10,871 children in both camps are malnourished.

"Aside the fact that it's obvious, upon seeing these children, to establish the fact that something is wrong as far as their feeding is concerned, our measurement confirms that the children are malnourished.

"All the children in our camps have become malnourished, the crisis has started taking its toll directly on the affected children. It is a challenge we are facing presently and it is obviously not good for growing children.

"The reason for this development cannot be far fetched, they are not eating well. And the truth is that the Benue state government has been overwhelmed, the government is carrying a burden that two states put together cannot carry.

"There is an urgent need for federal government and international intervention to help cater for these IDPs, who are close to 180,000 in eight locations across the state because the state government is already overwhelmed" our source added.

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