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We could starve to death, say resettled internally displaced persons in Pulka

16 December 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

Internally displaced persons who have been returned to their community in Pulka, Gwoza, are “knocking on the door of starvation”, as the World Food Programme described it.

Many of those returned to Pulka lived in Bakassi Camp in Maiduguri. But on November 29 the Borno State government closed the camp.

Borno State governor Babagana Umara Zulum announced in October that all IDP camps in Maiduguri would be closed by December 31 and their inhabitants returned to their ancestral homes.

But the IDPs in Pulka lack basic essentials to survive. They need food, safe water, healthcare and shelters, said an aid worker, who asked to remain anonymous.

For some of the IDPs, Pulka was not their ancestral home and they had spent the money given to them by the government to start afresh.

“Most of the newly settled IDPs do not have the basics. They are not receiving help from the international aid agencies, which are running out of much-needed funds. Putting food on their table remains a major challenge for all of them. They have little to no access to healthcare. Water is a scarcity. There are not enough shelters to accommodate them. It’s heartbreaking,” the aid worker said.

“They are also not being helped by United Nations agencies and other aid organisations which are fast running of funds,” he said.

The World Food Programme said in October that it might have to cut rations to more than half a million women, men and children in northeastern Nigeria by the end of the month unless new funding was found.

Amid the socioeconomic fallout from COVID-19, high food prices and limited food supply, Chris Nikoi, the WFP’s regional director for West Africa, said: “Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry.”

The agency said to sustain humanitarian operations in northeast Nigeria until March 2022, it urgently needed US$197 million.

What made matters worse was that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had closed its medical activities in Gwoza and Pulka, Borno State, in August because of security developments in the area and accrued threats to humanitarian workers.

MSF said: “The threats against humanitarian workers undermine the level of security that we need to operate safely in Gwoza and Pulka. Based on the analysis we made of the context, our ability to mitigate this high level of insecurity is limited. This puts the lives of our staff and patients at risk, while their right to safety and security must be a priority, as much as their right to respectively provide and receive medical and healthcare services in a safe environment.”

Head of the mission, Ahasan Abbasi, said at the time: “Our decision to leave Gwoza and Pulka has been a very painful one. We know it will have devastating consequences for people, who will be cut off from humanitarian aid.”

ReliefWeb, the humanitarian information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on Wednesday, December 15, that Amnesty International had expressed deep concern about the safety of thousands of IDPs in Borno state, who were at risk of forced resettlement because of the closure of camps by December 31, despite continued attacks by the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly known as Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and human rights violations by the military.

Amnesty International quoted a former Bakassi camp resident as saying: “The conflict that made us flee our homes out of fear, is what the government is forcing us to go back and face. We fear the attacks may happen again. I am so scared of going back home after what I faced at the hands of Boko Haram and while in detention in Giwa Barracks. I was arrested by the military for not escaping from our village on time; what if it happens a second time?”

The aid worker in Pulka appeal to the government and non-governmental organisations to help the newly settled IDPs, saying: “Most of these people are hungry. They urgently need help otherwise they will starve to death.”



About the author

Elvis Mugisha