GENEVA, Switzerland, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Thousands of people displaced by conflict in north-eastern Nigeria have taken refuge in Maiduguri.
On 3 November, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross Society completed the distribution of food and household essentials to over 50,000 people living in extremely difficult conditions. “Not only did people have to flee their homes in Kodunga, Kaga, Gwoza and Damboa, they also lost all their belongings and their means of earning a living. They didn’t have enough food and they lacked important basic items,” said Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria. “The additional strain placed on communities by hosting the displaced reached the point where it was more than they could bear.”
After carrying out an assessment of the situation, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross launched an emergency operation to meet urgent needs. ICRC staff and more than a hundred Nigerian Red Cross volunteers distributed 960 metric tonnes of food and other relief items to 51,000 people.
Food and other items for needy people in the north-east
Most displaced people who arrived in Maiduguri in the past few months were settled in government buildings, schools or official camps. Some stayed with relatives or host families, with whom they shared scant resources, while others found refuge in informal settlements. Whatever their living arrangements, the displaced cannot afford to buy their own food and therefore have had to depend on aid provided by the State or on the generosity of others to survive.
“In the short term, the aid we have just distributed will improve significantly the well-being of the displaced,” said Janet Angelei, an ICRC economic-security specialist working in Nigeria. “The kitchen sets, blankets, soap, mats, hygiene items and tarpaulins we have provided will meet some of their immediate needs and reduce the burden on the hosting families.”
The ICRC also distributed about a month’s supply of rice, beans, oil and salt. “Since fleeing our homes, we had not received any significant help,” said Abdullahi Abuya from Konduga. “Some of us had barely had anything to eat for weeks, but now things are better.”
In cooperation with the health ministry, the ICRC has undertaken to upgrade the Mala Kachalla primary health-care centre in Maiduguri and to train the centre’s staff. It has built a water tower with a 4,000-litre tank and installed a solar-powered water-supply system. In addition, it has completely renovated the facility’s floors, ceilings, doors and windows. “The centre, which is now fully operational, offers general outpatient services with a special focus on children under five years of age, ante-natal, delivery and post-natal services, and patient stabilization prior to referral for secondary care,” said Bernadette Gleeson, head of ICRC surgical and first-aid programmes in Nigeria. Because of the displaced people arriving in Maiduguri, the centre’s catchment population is now estimated to be in excess of 100,000.
Emergency aid for Nigerians who fled to Niger
Civilians fleeing fighting between the Nigerian army and armed groups have recently arrived in the Diffa area, in easternmost Niger. The displaced, mainly women and children, arrived from the Abadam area and Nigerian villages near Lake Chad. They have lost everything and are entirely dependent on host communities and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations. At the beginning of October, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger distributed food to more than 2,000 people in Diffa and to over 3,500 people who have taken refuge on islands in Lake Chad.
In 2014, the ICRC has also:
• visited detainees in over 20 detention facilities to assess the conditions in which they were being held. The findings were shared in full confidentiality with the authorities. In addition, ICRC staff provided detainees with blankets, mosquito nets and cleaning and hygiene items, improved hygiene conditions and helped make safe drinking water more easily available;
• restored access to clean water for more than 80,000 people in Kaduna and Plateau states;
• provided monthly food aid for 880 women in Maiduguri who lost their husbands in the ongoing conflict;
• provided food and other aid for over 37,000 people displaced as a result of intercommunal violence in Kaduna and Plateau states;
• taken part in a campaign launched at the end of October to vaccinate 150,000 head of cattle and 50,000 head of sheep and goats in partnership with the Plateau Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
• supplied fertilizer and maize seed to close to 2,000 families in Plateau to enable them to restart their farming activities;
• sent a mobile surgical team to help treat over 70 people injured in bomb blasts in Jos (in May) and in Kaduna (in July);
• provided first-aid training for 1,850 people in cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross;
• taught more than a thousand people, mostly from the Nigerian military and the Nigerian Red Cross, how to handle mortal remains properly.