By Akanimo Sampson
The Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Nigeria, a United Nations agency, Franz Celestin, has declared that non-state armed groups like the blood-letting Boko Haram and its allies cannot deter them from pressing ahead with their humanitarian services in the bleeding North-East axis of the troubled country.
According to Celestin, “the intended effect of the (latest attack) is to intimidate the humanitarian actors working in North-East Nigeria. We have seen this as humanitarian workers are increasingly targeted.”
On January 18, non-state armed groups stormed a humanitarian facility in Ngala town, some 124 kilometers from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Although all United Nations humanitarians in the facility – including three IOM staff – were reported safe, an entire section of the facility was burned down as well as one of the few vehicles used by humanitarians to deliver aid.
The attack came as aid workers from IOM this week continued to provide assistance to the survivors of a January 7 attack on a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Monguno town in volatile North-East Nigeria that killed two adults and two children.
The assistance, which has been provided to 130 people so far, includes counselling, psychological first aid and referrals to other services such as food and health within the Government Senior Science Secondary School (GSSS) camp.
The attack on the camp left over 2,700 people homeless.
IOM Nigeria Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Programme Coordinator, Gladys Cheruto Kios, explained “bereavement support is provided to people who are experiencing a loss, be it the loss of someone dear to them or loss of property. This emotional support is not a one-time event, but a process offered during the grieving session to come to terms with a tragic event.”
Mental health and psychosocial support are key components of humanitarian interventions in north-east Nigeria, a region that has been ravaged by conflict for over a decade. IOM first applied MHPSS services in Monguno over two years ago, in August 2017.
The humanitarian crisis in the troubled North-East region has claimed the lives of over 36,000 people, including 12 aid workers in 2019 alone. Over seven million people remain in need of urgent life-saving assistance in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
In the meantime, Monguno town is home to 159,542 IDPs including 52,784 children.
The unshaken UN migration agency is providing shelter solutions, non-food items, water, sanitation and hygiene, mental health and psychosocial support and camp coordination and camp management to displaced populations living in the area.
Just last year alone, (2019) Monguno suffered a total of nine attacks by non-state armed groups.
The humanitarian facility in Ngala town is one of nine humanitarian hubs in Borno managed by IOM. Humanitarian hubs provide operating environments for aid workers in deep field locations, including accommodation, office and connectivity services. These spaces are critical for a sustained and effective humanitarian response in Nigeria.
The IOM Chief in Nigeria, Celestin said, “These (humanitarian) hubs are the ultimate enablers to allow the humanitarian workers to improve the quality of the response by allowing them enough time on the ground to do what they’re supposed to do. Prior to the hubs, humanitarian workers could only go on day trips, so they’d go one day at a time to deliver services.”
The attack came 11 days after members of a non-state armed group infiltrated Monguno town. Two children, an adult male and one adult female were killed in the attack on a camp for IDPs. In addition, several injured people are currently receiving medical attention at a nearby clinic run by ALIMA, an international non-governmental organisation.
That deadly attack left 2,728 people homeless. According to an IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report, more than 300 shelters and properties belonging to the affected individuals were destroyed.
The undying conflict in the North-East continues to claim the lives of innocent people, and increasingly, of humanitarian workers. In 2019, twelve aid workers lost their lives, twice the number of deaths in the previous year.
DTM provides detailed and up-to-date information on characteristics and needs of crisis-affected population registration and profiling of displaced populations in camp and camp-like settings, flow monitoring exercises and reports, as well as the provision of detailed infrastructural information on areas of return through village assessment surveys.