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?
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.
(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.