Month: September 2014

“By this morning, we had 4,478 internally displaced people”

Mallam Haruna Amman Kure, the Executive Secretary of Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) spoke to TAP about his work managing the displacement camp where over 4,000 Nigerians fleeing militia violence from Michika, Mubi, and Madagali Local Governments in Adamawa State, among other areas. He talked about how the displacement camp came to be, shared with us from his statistics how many people were in the camp as of 27th of September, and how local organizations have been working to support the displaced population. He also talked about the mental health needs of the displaced and what SEMA’s work in meeting these needs, as well as voter disenfranchisement in the run-up to the upcoming Adamawa State Elections.

Thank you for agreeing to speak to Testimonial Archive Project. Can I just have your name, your position and what you do?

My name is Mallam Haruna Amman Kure, Executive Secretary, Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency.

Thank you so much, and you manage that camp that’s in Yola?

Yes.

How did people get to this camp?

One is through hardship. After the insurgency attack, some of them in their villages stayed upwards of 5 to 9 days on a mountain-top, while others hid themselves in the ceilings of their various homes. Then they snuck away, and the nearest place they could get to is the [Adamawa] state capital of Yola.  Initially good Samaritans just brought them [into town] and left them under trees, and by then we had not established the camp. We noticed the movement of people in town and questioned them. Press were very alert, and they started alerting us to an influx of people they believed were dislodged from their various villages. Government quickly directed me to put these people together, and that was how in conjunction of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), we got some of their vehicle and drivers to go round the town with SEMA tag. Whenever they meet people in small numbers, they ask whether they are IDPs ternally displaced persons). If one says yes, then they moved them to a place where we first of all started because we started with 34 people IDPs, and by that time, we used the temporary school, a primary school within the state capital. That was the first day. By the second day, it was terrible: people were just coming in on trucks, and the population [of IDPs] started growing. We liaised with the directorate of NYSC here and secured the premises, so we moved to the NYSC orientation camp. So this is how, and this was how the camp started on the 24th of august this year (2014).

Since that day, the number has been growing. The government also directed immediately we commence the usual routing camp activity. That is bringing together all humanitarian actors to join us in the camp. We invited them and they were prompt in their response, all the security outfits were there, the medical team were there. You know this is a situation where somebody has spent some days without proper feeding, so when they came to the camp a lot of them were very weak, emaciated. The medical team immediately stepped in and the usually spend first 3 days on medication, fatigue, malaria and some of these ailments. Luckily enough, thank God, from that time up to this day with the proper medication and the prompt attention we received from both the federal and state government that is NEMA (National emergency management agency) and the state government. We have enough drugs to take care of the people. We run 24-hour clinical services and we have doctors that come in from Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF came in with drugs, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) branch in Yola have also been performing very wonderfully.

 

How many people do you have registered as IDPs now?

Registration is ongoing, but by this morning, we had 4,478 IDPs. Out of this number, 2609 are male, 1305 are female, under 5 children are 559, pregnant women, 52, we have 6 successful deliveries [of babies]. We have never had any loss of life, and we have our brothers and sisters in the humanitarian services ranging from Refugee Commission, International Rescue Commission – name them. Apart from other security outfits, they are all here to work round the clock. NEMA setup this camp itself, and they supervise and make sure they are on the right footing.

It sounds like you have a lot of partners that have done a lot of work in other countries as well that are also helping you, but what about the local organizations? Are there any local CSOs in Adamawa and surrounding states that are helping you?

Most of these [organizations present] are local organizations, like the faith based organizations. All these faith based organizations in Adamawa state are there with us in the camp. We have about 8 committees and they are in all these eight committees. The American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Adamawa Peace Initiative have been supporting us in that also, because at present we are concentrating more on their educational side. As I told you, UNICEF supplied us with educational materials, and AUN, Adamawa Peace Initiative and other well meaning citizens of the state are supporting us in that aspect too because they’ve agreed to come and conduct classes. These children’s education has been disrupted and we don’t want it to continue much longer. We now have up to 6 classes and very soon we are going into waste-to-wealth education so that by the time they leave they must have gotten one trade or the other due. I want to believe that by next week after this Sallah, we will set off fully in that aspect.

And there are other social activities we do there. We have football pitches, and we play matches between the humanitarian workers there and the IPD teams.

Who wins?

(laughs) We played one match and we are playing this evening. Well, you see the thing is, these people are depressed. We need to have some psychosocial activities here to at least to make them start feeling at home. IDPs can be aggressive, and they get dejected. You cannot rule that out because the situation the IDP left. Some of them maid have terrible memories, like the women that are the widows, you find them, you have to go close to them, you have to counsel them. We call most of them by name because we want them to feel at home, and honestly that aspect is working well. The psychiatric doctors who come in with the NMA are treating patients there because they are discovering a lot of them that need counseling. So that is how we work.

You say the psychiatric hospitals are coming to the camp. Is there a program that is in place or is it you know, just go and do house call in the camp or is it like specific program you are doing in the camp?

It’s a program we are doing in the camp. We have one doctor that comes every Wednesday, another one comes on Saturday, so in between it we have to call them to come in. When they are leaving, since we’ve identify the patient and they tell us what they want us to do with this patient. They often want us to spend time with [the IDPs], and that is what led us to start playing football. We use to have one pitch but now we’ve expanded to a full field for them and later on we’ve identified and setup a volley ball pitch for them.

Initially the atmosphere in the camp was a little tense, but the fact that we stay with them, we play with them, we have naming ceremonies and we fund the naming ceremonies, we fund most of the activities, so we’ve now become almost a family with them. And we are just trying to do that to create a conducive environment. The aggressiveness they came with is now subsiding. With feeding, NEMA had to make sure we perfected it. Everybody has satisfied, including the IDPs themselves, because they are the ones predominantly partaking in the cooking rather. So with time, they know what they want to eat and the quality and we make it that the food we cook there we eat together with them.

You just mentioned aggressiveness. Were there fights in the camp at the beginning, were people aggressive any small thing they start fighting, is that how it was in the beginning before you start to put in those psychosocial activities to bring them closer at first? Were they antagonist to each other at first? What was it like?

No, there was no fighting, nothing physical. But you know if you talk to somebody you think what you are expecting him to do, he will do the opposite. You tell him that open defecation is not good and it may result to outbreak [of illness]. Before you realize, he will still do the same thing again. You tell them, ‘this is not the place to dispose your waste product’, that there are bins. Our sister NGOs provided waste disposal bins and introduced hand washing fittings all over to make sure they are everywhere, but their aggressiveness started interfering. And what we did was to add more of the pit toilet because some of them don’t feel comfortable using this conventional toilet. These additional pit toilets reduced open defecation drastically.

I was just going to ask you based on open defecation, were there any previous outbreak of cholera or anything? I know there are in Maiduguri.

No, our medical team from Ministry of Health came in aggressively so they were able to tackle that. Up until this time we had only two cases of measles on children, and they were immediately quarantined. About a week ago, they’d already been discharged. There is nothing again like that. And immediately we were able to contain this open defecation (OD) syndrome, all these things stopped.

How many toilets do you have in the camp?

It is an NYSC Orientation camp, so there is a lot, and they have many conventional baths. We were able to add about 15 additional toilets so you see that is what led them to imbibe this culture of using the toilet. And then we have sanitation on almost daily bases, and we make sure that we go with them. Our sister agencies the IRC and other outfits that are there, they took it upon themselves that this should be part of work done daily, including Sunday.

The civil defense, the Boys Brigade, the Girls Brigade, the JNI, peace Corp, so the other police and army are all here on a regular bases, they are just here to support us. In plain clothes and uniform, security are always there with us. That is how we are able to have this level, thank God the government visit us periodically to see what we are doing are there are areas where they need to also come in, they come in the state government. And the UNACA are always in support, they’ve been supporting us, so that is how we are moving.

 I know that there are elections coming up in Adamawa. Have the elections in Adamawa been approached by INEC to register? Can you suggest anything to forestall voter enfranchisement among IDPs?

We need to see INEC and discuss. Let me just file my statistics of those who are likely to vote in my camp. When we have this information, it would help advise me on what to do next. We have not done that for now, because we want to let these people settle down but by next week, what you’ve said now, I’ll follow up on.

“How can you depend on [the military] to protect you?”

Mr. Mohammed is a Maiduguri resident who was in Bama when it fell to insurgents. He talks about the relationship between the military and civilians in Maiduguri and how the military’s attitude towards ordinary citizens in Borno has changed over time, and the fragile normalcy of daily life in the city. He also talks about the role that the youth volunteer group known as civilian JTF has played in securing Maiduguri, and trust in the Nigerian military to handle the ongoing crisis.

The violence has been going on for quite a while now in Borno State. How has the relationship between security forces and the populace changed over time?

The relationship between the military and the people at first was very bad, because the military first came with the mindset that everybody in Maiduguri was a Boko Haram member. They came with a mindset of complete destruction, killing, looting and violence. So at that time people had no confidence in them because they were attacking people. There was nothing like interrogating; they would just kill and loot, and even sometimes they would set houses on fire. So at that time there was no good relationship between civilians and the security agents at that time. But now, with the coming of the civilian JTF, [most military] know that not everybody is a Boko Haram man. What they have been doing for up to two years and could not curtail[the violence], they were able to do with coming of the civilian JTF. So people have confidence now in the civilian JTF more than the military men. As a result now, the military men have now become friends with the civilian JTF which are part of the civilian population. This is what is on ground now.
So basically the civilian JTF has acted almost as an intermediary between the military and the general population, mediating that relationship between both parties.
Yes. We were looking at the civilian JTF as our response because we have tried our best to throw out the Boko Haram members from Maidugiri to the outskirts of Maiduguri. We are thankful to them.
We’ve been hearing a lot in the news about some areas where Boko Haram is now in control. What impact does this have really on the day to day lives of the people in these communities? We have a vague sense of it being a very bad thing and perhaps an increase in violence and a sense of threat to Nigeria’s territorial integrity. But what does it mean to the people who live in these communities?

For the two communities which you have mentioned, Gwoza and Bama, what [we are seeing] in Gwoza [is that] there are only old men and women. Any young woman or able-bodied man is not there. In essence, the town is completely under the control of the insurgents. Anything like business, buying or selling, there is nothing like that. Especially those people who left their houses [in these controlled areas] unprepared, psychologically they are now affected. They are living in separate, different locations, so you can imagine how they are feeling. And if you come to the second place, Bama which you mentioned, as of yesterday (I don’t know of today), it was still completely under the control of the insurgents too. So there are no people in Bama – the only people remaining there are only women and old people – and the women are now suffering from lack of food, there is nowhere they can go to buy anything, they cannot move freely because insurgents are patrolling the whole town. The few people there are just living in a way that is…they cannot even understand what to do. They have nowhere to go. This is the situation. So as a result of this, either in Bama or in Gwoza or anywhere in Borno in general, people are living in a really desperate situation.

So in your community now, how are people relating to each other? Are they going to visit relatives, are markets or supermarkets still open? What’s it like now in Maiduguri where you are?
In Maiduguri, life is very normal. If a stranger comes here, he may not know that he is in Maiduguri because it is so normal. People are moving about without any fear or anything because here we believe that what they are doing outside they will never come to Maiduguri. It is not possible even. People are doing their business. Supermarkets, shops, markets, everything is open, except that our curfew starts from 7 in the evening to 6 in the morning, this is the only thing. Otherwise everything is normal. But one problem is that you cannot go outside Maiduguri, especially if you are going towards the East or towards the Southern parts, because we are in a kind of a cage. we have only one entrance. You cannot go towards Bama or Gwoza.
If people are living their day-to-day lives in the city, is it because they trust the police and army to protect the city?
No. We are with the military men, but we know not to trust them to defend us. We have had two scenarios in Gwoza and in Bama where the military abandoned their security posts and ran away. So how can you depend on them to protect you? In Bama, I was an eyewitness. I saw them stay with civilians to run away from Bama to Maiduguri. So how can you imagine that these people would protect you? Only our CJTF and the determination of the people, knowing that whatever happens in Maiduguri, we are going out en masse to face it together.
Are there still people joining these militants?
No, they are forcing people. They would take away young men and they conscript people into their ranks. When they take over a town, they take [the young men] away.
My final question: Have you heard of any militants forming a sort of government in these places?
Especially in a place like Gwoza where we are hearing is under [Boko Haram], we have not gotten any concrete way in which they are administering the place. We are trying other sources to know exactly what kind of government they are running, but up until now we have not concrete way that they are ruling the place, because no one is going there to bring out the information.
That’s all the questions I have. Is there anything else you want to say that I haven’t asked you?
Our military lacks the power, determination or morale to face these small insurgents. Or let’s look at it this way: does the government have the political will to end this insurgency? These are our concerns, because if our government is serious about this, if our military can go outside [the country] and do peacekeeping well, why can’t we do it in Nigeria? Also, where are these insurgents getting all their arms and ammunition? For example, a helicopter isn’t something that one can put in a house. It has to be in an airport or an airstrip. And the airspace is controlled by the government. So how can a helicopter fly from somewhere to go to the enclave of the insurgents and drop money, weapons, or medicine, and fly back? From where is this helicopter coming from, and who is controlling it? So how we are looking at it is that the government has no will to end the insurgency. Maybe because some people are benefiting from it, we don’t know.

“The first people came when their homes were struck [by militants], now people are coming on their own”

Mr. Abubakar Gombe of Red Cross in Gombe State helps to manage an IDP camp for people fleeing insurgency violence in Borno State. The camp is located in the Gombe-Biu by-pass area of Gombe in Gombe State. In this interview, he talks to TAP about his work with the IDPs. He describes IDPs’ typical behavior when they first come into camp, what kind of assistance the Red Cross and other international agencies are rendering, and the importance of the local community in Gombe State welcome of the IDPs. From this interview, we learn that there is still no institutionalized government program to help the IDPs fleeing insurgency violence and that post-traumatic counseling support is still needed for displaced populations in the region.

To assist with donations to this IDP camp in Gombe, do call Mr. Abubakar Gombe on his phone number 08032639263. Due to technical difficulty, we sincerely regret that we are unable to provide a Soundcloud recording of this interview.

How do you receive IDPs? Do they make their way to you or are they put together and driven down in government vehicles?

The IDPs come to us. Before the establishment of camps, they were just staying at motor parks when they run away from their homes [in Borno], because they don’t know anywhere in town. It was when so many of them were at the motor parks that it was reported to Red Cross. Red Cross then reported to Gombe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), who decided to give them a place which is now the camp.

When you meet people, what kind of state do you meet them in? Do they have a lot of belongings?

One finds them in a state of despair. The first thing you see is their desperation, most especially the children, because they don’t know where they are. They can’t even stay still and look at you. The women as well are often in shock.

So they don’t make eye contact?

No, only the men. When the women are talking to you, they’re heads are down and you can tell they’re distracted.

The children?

You would see that they’re tired. Very tired and hungry, when we met them in the week after coming in from the motor park. Now that we have established the camp. Those first people that came, it was when their homes were struck [by militants]. Now, people are coming on their own [before their homes are struck]. Now that the camp is here, these new people don’t have as many psychological issues.

Demographics-wise, do you have more men than women?

Mostly women, then children. Then the men. We’ve recorded like 2000 people. Some have left [the camp], so we now have 1,570.

Why do they leave?

Some are government workers who’ve used their salaries to get a place to rent in town.

What other international agencies are with you, and what kind of assistance do you render?

It is only the Red Cross in terms of NGOs around in the camps. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supplies some materials for the children and adults, like food aid. Then bulk of food comes from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Then another food items from philanthropist. An-Noor Mosque in Abuja brings in food for us as well. We also get used clothes. NEMA and Gombe State Government are the ones coordinating the whole thing.

The Borno and Gombe State governments, what role do they play?

Gombe is hosting the IDPs, giving them shelter, medical care taken care of by the state government through SEMA. Then Borno State government the deputy governor and governor came and gave them a lot of money in cash which they shared among the families, then promised them that soon they would go back.

So mostly ad-hoc, then? Is there any institutionalized program from Borno State for the IDPs from their state?

Not to my knowledge, no.

What is the situation like, health-wise? We’ve had an interview with the Health Commissioner and she talked about cholera outbreak in a camp in Maiduguri. Are you having similar difficulty?

We have not had that. We’d heard of the cholera outbreak, though, and we’re working on the sanitation issue. NEMA has added more latrines for us. They are divided for use by men, women, and even children. There is also hygiene education and promotion through Red Cross. So no, no cholera outbreak, bu some women are giving birth.

How many?

7 in the past two months. One of them to twins.

How long has this camp been open?

The camp has been open for 3 months.

A lot of care is given to physical health. What about psychosocial health? Following the abduction of the girls from Chibok especially, there has been a lot of focus on sexual violence during this insurgency. We’ve heard of young women reporting on experiences of sexual violence. And it’s even said that some girls have even given birth as a result of the rapes. What effort is ongoing to address women and girls’ specific need and even trauma-related issues?

We in the Red Cross give psychosocial support, but there is no center opened, and no one assigned to that specific role. We are mingling with them socially to find out their welfare. We are mingling with the men as well to find out if there is any problem. We encourage them to not hide anything so we can provide any support needed.

So there is no set program as yet, but it is being done informally.

No program, but I can tell you that if there are we can provide such assistance. People have been confiding in us, even those taking ARV drugs tell us. So we know if they are we can find out.

In addition to the question specific to women, as a general matter, is trauma also addressed informally?

Yes.

These people have also lost their sources of livelihood. What is being done in terms of re-training, trying to get them back on their feet? Or is it too early to think about this?

It’s not too early, because it would help to get things like this done on time. It would help so much. Other international NGOs are trying their best in that regards, but not in the camp.

Which ones?

We collaborate with Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and also Gombe State Ministry of Agriculture. Some local governments have given the IDPs seedlings. Even Gombe SEMA has rented some housing for the IDPs in town.

And community members welcoming? Is their movement restricted?

Yes, very welcoming, that’s why many of them even decided to move into town. Especially the religious bodies, churches and mosques. Child Protection Services too have even come recently with relief items for the children. Some of these people also have relatives in town as well.

State and Federal Government are they working hand-in-hand? Is there any duplication of effort?

Yes, I think so. They have many meetings on strategy and have demonstrated working relations. Especially so with NEMA and SEMA.

That’s all I have. Anything else you want to make note of that I haven’t asked you?

Only that the government has been promising them that they would go back in two weeks. They raised their hopes, but it’s not feasible. Some tried to go back home, but they couldn’t even enter their towns. It’s best not to raise anyone’s hopes.