Nigeria: Acute Hunger - Outrage As IDP Children Feed On Onion Leaves

22 April 2019

Intense hunger due to inadequate food items in an Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camp in the outskirts of Bauchi State, has forced children to feed on onion leaves for survival.

Reporters, who visited the camp, located about two km from Rindebin community in Bauchi Local Government Area, noted that the children, between the ages of three and five, looked pitiful as they consume the leaves.

Meanwhile, the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday lamented the pathetic situation in IDP camps in Bauchi and several others across the nation, saying that shows the level the ugly state the Nigerian human life has been degraded to.

Director of Legal and Public Affairs, CAN, Mr Samuel Kwankur said recent gestures by CAN and other public spirited organisations should only be regarded as attempts to cushion the hardship suffered by these Nigerians..

Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has called for investigation into allegations that IDPs have resorted to eating onion leaves to survive.

Secretary General of the forum, Anthony Sani in an interview with Vanguard, said journalists should also pay more attention to the plight of internally displaced persons.

We are helpless - parents

Some of the parents of the children interviewed said there was not enough food, as such, they had to 'improvise' ways of tackling hunger. They said they believed onion leaves were nutritious and would also protect their children from hunger and diseases.

One of the parents, Aisha Musa, said that for the past one year, children and adults in the camp had been struggling to survive, with little or no assistance from all quarters.

Another parent, Ajidda Ahmed, said the hardship being encountered were enormous, adding that most of them had given up any hope of living a normal life.

"Both adults and children suffer from hunger; this has resulted in forcing us to eat raw onion leaves from sellers that come into the camp.

"Rainy season is about to set in and another fear is the outbreak of childhood diseases. Because for the past year, our children were not immunised and there are no water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

"We defecate in the bush and the rainwater will soon wash our faeces back to the stream, where we source for water to drink," she lamented.

It was also observed that children under two years in the camp were showing signs of malnutrition.

Commenting on the situation, the leader of the IDP camp, Bulama Gojja, said that there were over 200 people of the Shuwa-Arab stock from Marte, Marfa and Jere local governments of Borno State. He said they were forced to relocate to the camp last year as a result of the activities of 'Boko-Haram' insurgents.

Gojja enumerated their challenges to include insufficiency of food items, lack of potable water, health facility and education for their children.

He said that in 2018, no fewer than 20 pregnant women delivered in the camp without the required medical attention, expressing fears that the off-springs might develop health challenges due to lack of immunization.

He lamented that in spite of their efforts at drawing sympathy over their plight, assistance was not forthcoming from any quarters.

The leader, therefore, solicited for assistance from both government and non-governmental organisations, particularly in the areas of health, education, potable water and agriculture inputs like fertiliser, seed and herbicides to enable them engage in farming.

When contacted yesterday for comment, the Bauchi State Government, through one of its senior officials, said a visit had been scheduled for the IDP camp today, and they will react accordingly after the visit.

Similarly, an official of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, who spoke for the agency, said they will react after a visit to the camp today.

CAN laments the situation in IDP camps

Meanwhile, CAN, speaking through Kwankur remarked: "It's the responsibility of government to take charge of the day-to-day upkeep of the displaced persons at the camp. It's unfortunate that today, human life has been reduced to despicable level and people are now being treated with so much disdain.

"If any disaster happens outside the country, the authorities are quick to respond and sometimes rush relief materials to the affected nations, but disasters in our backyard here are treated with so much levity and the victims are often abandoned for days.

"It has gotten to the extent when agencies have clamped down on certain electronic media, warning them to refrain from showing horrifying pictures on their networks."

Kwankur, however, appealed to the Federal Government to rise up to the challenge of adequately feeding internally displaced persons because it's not by choice that they find themselves in such places.

"It's indeed disheartening that there are IDPs in Bauchi. If they are fall-outs from crises in other states, government should make haste to resettle them in their places of abode," he stated.

ACF on IDP crisis

ACF reacting through Anthony Sani, said: "If the reports are true that the IDP camp in Bauchi is being starved of food, then the media should investigate and draw the attention of government and those in charge to the situation.

"Because of paucity of funds, it is hard for governments to do enough. What one can say is to submit that if they cannot increase the resources at their disposal, they should increase the yield through effective and efficient management practices," he said.

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