Humanitarian News

Evacuated IDPs in dire need of money and food

Life outside the closed state-run internally displaced persons’ camps in Maiduguri is not easy.

Many of the IDPs who have settled in host communities are finding it hard to make ends meet. Most do not have jobs, there’s no money, rent for their living spaces is high, they are hungry and they cannot afford to send their children to school.

Kaltume Ali, from Bakassi camp, fled from the Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State because of persistent attacks by insurgents.

She told RNI reporter Aisha Jamal that when Bakassi was evacuated, she was given 50,000 naira from the government and decided to rent a shelter in Galtimari, a suburb of Maiduguri.

“Rent for shelters costs anything from 60,000 naira, 80,000 naira or 100,000 naira for one year. I went for the 80,000 naira and built a tent in an open yard where I live with my six children. There are about 15 tents in the yard and lots of people, all former residents of Bakassi,” she said.

“The camp was better than where I live now. Even though it was congested, we had more space there. Sometimes we got money and other assistance. Here, we get no financial aid and living without a job is risky.”

The dry season made things even more difficult.

“If it was the wet season we might have got some land to farm and grow our own food. But there is nothing I can do and I don’t have a job and not much money. My children are suffering because they are not getting sufficient nutritious food.”

Ali said there was no water and she and her kids often went from house to house in search of it.

“Transport is another problem. We have to walk if we want to buy food because the cost of transport takes up the little money intended for food. So, we just trek,” she said.

“First we were forced to leave our communities because of the insurgency. Then we started our lives over again in Bakassi IDP camp. And now we have been forced to leave the camp, too. Getting food is one of the biggest problems. Even if we could afford to send our children to school, they can’t live with hunger. How are they supposed to concentrate when their bellies are empty?”

Ali said she understood why the government wanted to evacuate the camps and return the residents to their own home communities where they could start afresh.

“For some it has worked but, for those like me, our houses in Gwoza have been ravaged and burnt. We have do not have the option of returning home. There is nothing left there for us. So, we just have to stay here and face the challenges.”

Ali said the government had to help people like her so that they could start a business, develop it and sustain and take care of their children properly.

Ummi Abubakar, from Bakassi camp and also originally from Gwoza, moved to Ajajari, on the outskirts of Maiduguri. She had welcomed the idea of the camp closure but she was unhappy about how hard life outside the camp had turned out.

“Some of the residents of Bakassi were not happy when the government decided to close the camps. But I was pleased and supported the decision because I thought it would enable me to fully support my children’s upbringing. The camp was large and I could not always keep a watch on my kids. I was always scared they might get involved in illegal activities in the camp. But here, we are surrounded and we can see where our kids are and what they are up to. If necessary, we can call them inside and shut the door. In Bakassi they just roamed around wherever they wanted,” she said.

“We have rented a house in Ajajari. It is not ideal, just a room that fits four and a fence around it. We live in fear, though, because landlords can be hostile and they could tell us to go at any time. They can also raise the rent without warning or discussion. These are the issues we face now,” she said. “At least in Bakassi we did not have these fears. We felt safer and we also got provisions of food and other essential items. But no one offers us help here. We go to bed hungry and when we wake we are listless with no energy left.”

Abubakar said while she was in Bakassi she ran a business selling foodstuff and spices.

“Now we gave lost that and it’s a daily struggle to get money to buy food. If we got help from the government and non-governmental organisations, we could start another business. But, as it is, we are in dire need of food.”

  • Some of the state-run IDP camps are still open. They will be shut when all the residents have received their government payout.
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