Nigeria’s internally-displaced persons’ camps are transmitting worrisome currents around the world. This is because the camps are drenched in deprivation and death.
On our visit with the charity organization founded by The United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, Dr. Olakunle Churchill of The Big Church Foundation, we discovered that the worst hit occupants of the camps are children, who are dying daily from acute malnutrition, according to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund.
In a frightening note – ‘Starving to Death’ – our findings stated that six malnourished children die daily in the IDP camp in Bama, Borno State. This human tragedy should provoke a massive response from the authorities. They should mobilize all the resources needed to bring this catastrophe to an end.
The Big Church Foundation personnel, who were given access to the Bama camp, discovered that poor living conditions were prevalent there. Just like in the other IDP camps in Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba states, women and children have no access to water, sanitation, dignity, basic shelter, and most of all, food.
Some 24,000 IDPs live in the Bama camp, with 15,000 of them children, The situation has spawned a crisis, one in which 188 people died in the one month to June 2016 due to diarrhoea and malnutrition. We counted more than 1,200 graves near the camp that were dug in the past year (and), almost 500 of which were for children. This is heart-breaking.
It is unfortunate that the IDPs, having been rescued from the clutches of Boko Haram, are now wallowing in deprivation. Images of gaunt, hungry children bear a haunting semblance of those recorded during the humanitarian tragedy that claimed 258,000 lives – about half of them children.
Experts note that severe malnutrition kills one million children annually worldwide. Most of the casualties occur in war-ravaged areas. While hunger affects all human beings, it is more devastating for children. In 2015, 98 out of the 450 persons who died in 28 Nigerian IDP camps were children, according to the Borno State Government. The camps recorded 6,444 malnutrition cases.
“Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five-year-olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world,” says UNICEF.
With a figure of 10.5 million, Nigeria also boasts a high burden of out-of-school children, according to aid agencies.
To reverse the development, The Big Church Foundation has not only provided relief materials, we have also made provisions established medical centers to cater for the needs of the IDPs. We have donated insecticide-treated mosquito nets, drugs, deworming tablets and provided medical services. In partnership with global agencies like The United Nations and UNICEF to do more, as they are doing in Syria and other crisis points in the world.
The Big Church Foundation is coming out with a programme, present an iron-cast case to the multilateral global bodies, seeking help in cash and kind, and volunteers to help stem the tide of juvenile deaths. We would sensitize both national and international philanthropists to commit them to the cause of saving Nigerian children from disease and death.
Children are the hope of tomorrow. We owe them a better life, including food, health care and education.
Photo credit: The Big Church Foundation