Displacement in Pandemic: Two Suns at the Sunset – By Kamal Ololade Ahmed

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From 2009 till present, there have been many causes of displacement in Nigeria but no one has been as devastating as the Boko Haram induced displacement.

The Governor of Borno State, Babgana Zulum alluded to this when he said the Covid 19 should not make us forget Covid 2009. I think he was been a bit euphemistic.

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Boko Haram has wrecked a greater havoc than one can ever imagine from the ongoing pandemic. The Nigerian army deserves commendation for its intensified counterinsurgency operation in the Northeast. Yet, it is a matter of grave consequence that the war is obviously not yet won.

Quite grave that many other complex factors driving displacement in the Lake Chad region have been overshadowed.

The more the insurgency and counterinsurgency operation linger on the greater the human cost. This human cost finds a living expression in the hobbled lives of people uprooted from their various communities most of whom end up in limbo.

It is recently said that Covid 19 restriction is compounding livelihood stresses and impact of climate change on herders in Lake Chad. Similarly, UN humanitarians warned on Thursday, July 9, that millions of displaced persons across Africa face even greater food insecurity because of aid disruption and rising food prices linked to the Covid 19 crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director, David Basley said
“While the situation continues to deteriorate for everyone, the disaster is magnified for refugees who have absolute nothing to cushion their fall.”

Displaced people often fall between the cracks as national policies of might not capture these vulnerable groups. There are still large numbers of internally displaced persons in Nigeria living like refugees in their own country. During a research field work early this year, I saw how some of these displaced persons who are in Mugulbu, Adamawa State still live in shambles four years after they left their homes. They lack access to food and good shelter. The depressed local economy leaves them with few options of what they could do to make a living.

Many organizations who gave them some forms of intervention at the early period of their displacement never checked on them again. The host community faced with rising level of poverty could no longer share their foods with them and other things as they used to do before. There are many cases of people like this in different communities in the Northeast who have become largely invisible.

As the rainy season gets to the peak there are communities also at the risk of being displaced by flood.

The African Union declared 2019 “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons” in order to put the spotlight on the plights of those that are uprooted. During the celebration in Nigeria, the government was called upon to domesticate the Kampala Convention into our national law.

One year later the call is yet to receive proper attention. As many are economically displaced as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, displaced persons may sink further into abyss and oblivion especially those outside official camps.

Nigeria is among the countries that have ratified the Kampala Convention but yet to domesticate it in our national law. In 2015, Nigerian House of Representative Committee on IDPs was established with Sani Zoro as the chair.

The committee with the assistance of the UNHCR conducted stakeholder mapping an analysis of existing legislation and awareness raising activities among the general population. It also held a national assembly session on IDPs during which the UNHCR handbook for implementation on Internal Displacement was presented.

Despite the progress, the process was hampered by limited fund, lack of capacity and inadequate coordination mechanism.

It is time to end the legal vacuum by adopting National Policy on the protection of IDPs. Different state committees for the selection of participants in the Special Public Work billed to start in October should consider this category of people in their state as part of reintegration efforts. As Basley said, in the best of times, displaced person live in cramped conditions, struggle to meet their basic needs and often have no option but to rely on outside assistance for their survival.

Now more than ever they need our life supporting support.

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