Humanitarian News

UN Secretary-General gives hope to internally displaced persons in Borno State, acknowledging their grave need for humanitarian aid

Guterres et Buhari, lors de point de presse

A refugee or internally displaced persons’ camp would be the last place on earth that António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, would like to live with his family.

Guterres said this on Tuesday, May 3, after visiting Gubio IDP camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, during his two-day official visit to Nigeria.

He acknowledged that there was a grave need for humanitarian aid for internally displaced persons (IDPs), whose living conditions he described as critical.

“I have to say that of course the conditions in an IDP camp [are critical] – I was the High Commissioner for Refugees – I visited camps for refugees everywhere. I have never seen a refugee or an IDP camp where I would like to live with my family. Of course, the conditions are not good.”

The “enormous challenges” faced by the northeastern state of Borno, including the 13-year continuing insurgency, need to be recognised by the international community to create a “state of hope and a state of reality”, he told UN News.

Humanitarian support was fundamental and aid agencies should do whatever they could to support the people in IDP camps, he said. “But let’s try to find a solution for people and that solution is to create the conditions – security conditions, development conditions – for them to be able to go back home to live in safety and dignity in their places of origin.

Antonio Guterres, au Nigeria

“The appeal I heard in the meeting I had with the displaced people was exactly that – ‘what we want is to go back. We don’t want to live here’,” said Guterres.

IDPs in Gubio camp told RNI on Wednesday that they were happy about Guterres’ visit and hoped he would ensure something was done to address their plight.

Suleiman Mohammed said: “I’m originally from Gamboru Ngala. Before coming to this camp we spent about three years at Minaw camp in Cameroon. We have been at Gubio for almost seven years. So, it is about 10 years since we had to flee our ancestral home. Life in this camp is very hard and difficult. We don’t have sufficient food, water and other social services. We want to return to our ancestral homes so that we can farm and engage in other business activities and have a sustainable means of livelihood.

“The Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, visited the camp almost 11 months ago distributing pamphlets in which he pledged to return us to our ancestral homes. Since that day, we have not seen him or heard from him until yesterday when he arrived with the UN Secretary-General.

“We are happy they visited us and we hope now our problems can be addressed, especially the issue of returning to our ancestral homes.”

Bukar Abatcha said: “I’m originally from Banki in the Bama Local Government Area. I have lived in this camp for almost eight years. Since we got here we have not been able to return to our ancestral homes. Before the governor came to the camp promising us that we would be returned to our homes, we used to get an adequate supply of food from non-governmental organisations [NGOs] and humanitarian agencies. But after his visit we have not been given adequate food and water. Our living conditions for almost 12 months have been critical and we don’t know why.”

With his host, Zulum, Guterres met surrendered fighters and their families of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram.

“Borno is now a place of hope – showing that the way to fight terrorism effectively is to invest in livelihoods, reintegration and people’s futures,” he said after visiting a UN-supported reintegration centre for children who have been involved with armed groups.

UN News said the Bulumkutu Interim Care Centre, which opened in June 2016, was a transit centre that had provided shelter, protection and other lifesaving services to 7,036 people, including 4,018 children (2,756 boys and 1,262 girls) in preparation for reintegration back into their communities.

Many of these children were forced – or chose, through a lack of other opportunities – to join terrorist groups and take up arms as combatants, UN News said.

Imam Mallam Abba Bilal Goni, a local religious leader, said that at Bulumkutu, they were given a fresh opportunity to start a new life. “We established a repentance and reward programme as part of the reintegration process. We provide education and job training, so these young people can have a future.”

After meeting a group of children, Guterres said: “I was amazed to see today in the centre that those who have been terrorists, want to integrate in and contribute to society. The policy that is in place here is a policy of reconciliation and reintegration.”

Bunu Monguno, the director of the Finance Agency for the Coordination of Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Response, told RNI that the government and all the people in Borno State were delighted to receive Guterres, whom they hoped would come up with solutions to the humanitarian crisis facing the state.

“The purpose of Guterres’ visit was to assess the level of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and to create solutions.

“His visit was very important, because it will draw the attention of the international community and encourage them to act by taking all the necessary measures to address the humanitarian crisis and the issues of insecurity, not only in Borno State but also throughout northeastern Nigeria.

“He told us he was here to assess the overall situation. We are very optimistic that something fruitful will come from his visit.”

On Wednesday Guterres held a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The Presidency said the meeting centred on security challenges bedevilling Nigeria and the solutions open to the country.

Guterres told reporters after the meeting: “We discussed the importance of laying the groundwork to ensure peaceful and democratic elections next year – and the full participation of Nigeria’s women and young people in all areas. We also discussed the government’s measures to address security challenges across the country.”

The UN said that humanitarian needs in northeastern Nigeria continued to be large-scale, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and deteriorating food security situation.

An estimated 8.4 million people need humanitarian and protection assistance. Of those about 3.2 million people are already not getting enough food to eat.

The UN said Guterres’ trip to the region began in Senegal at the weekend. Afterwards he travelled to Niger, where he called for more resources to be made available to battle the “terrorist scourge” in the region and met some of the thousands who had been “displaced by the combination of terrorism, rampant insecurity and other factors, such as climate change”.

SHETTIMA LAWAN MONGUNO

About the author

Mbodou Hassane Moussa

Journaliste de formation et de profession. Passionné par l'écriture, le digital et les médias sociaux, ces derniers n'ont aucun secret pour lui. Il a embrassé très tôt l'univers des médias et de la Communication. Titulaire d'une Licence en journalisme et d'un Master en Management des projets, Mbodou Hassan Moussa est éditeur Web du journal en ligne Toumaï Web Médias. Aujourd'hui, il est devenu Webmaster à la Radio Ndarason internationale et collabore à la réalisation du journal en langue française et dialecte Kanembou.

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