In Northern Nigeria, 2 Million IDPs Facing Mental Health Risks

IDPs
IDPs

By Akanimo Sampson

Around two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the volatile North-East axis of Nigeria are currently facing risks to their mental health and wellbeing.

In the embattled region, millions of people continue to endure the impact of a decade-long humanitarian crisis.

Most recently, on Tuesday (June 9), an attack attributed to non-state armed groups claimed the lives of 81 people in the Gubio Local Government Area, 80 kilometers from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, on attack against civilians in Gubio, Borno:

I am outraged and incensed by incoming reports of violent incidents against civilians carried out by non-state armed groups in Borno State, in which 81 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others wounded.

On the afternoon of June 9, armed actors aboard motorcycles mounted a brutal attack on Felo community in Gubio Local Government Area, 80 kilometres away from the state capital Maiduguri. I am also receiving worrying reports that civilians were shot while trying to escape and that assailants set ablaze homes with civilians still inside as well as stole more than 1,000 heads of cattle.

I extend my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent people who lost their lives in this abhorrent act. They are mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who should never have been a target. My thoughts are with the countless members of this community whose homes and livestock were burned or stolen. I am also wishing a speedy recovery to the people who were injured.

This attack, the deadliest recorded in north-central Borno State since July 2019, has sent shockwaves across the humanitarian community working to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable in Borno.

I am gravely concerned by the level and number of violent attacks recorded in recent weeks. I am also troubled by the widespread practice by non-state armed groups of setting up illegal checkpoints along main supply routes, which heighten risks for civilians to be abducted, killed or injured. Aid workers are directly impacted and the humanitarian community is disturbed by the news of possible abductions, including that of a camp manager from the Borno State Emergency Management Agency working in the northern Borno town of Monguno, where tens of thousands of civilians are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.

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I vehemently condemn any and all acts of violence against innocent civilians who have been bearing the brunt of this decade-long conflict for too long, as well as aid workers who are risking their lives to help them.

I call for the immediate and safe release of all aid workers and civilians who remain in captivity.

I firmly urge all actors on the ground to protect civilians and aid workers and ensure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable women, children and men, who desperately need relief, particularly at this crucial time when we are all scaling up efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forced into displacement, 1.8 million IDPs, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), are facing risks to their mental health and wellbeing.

IOM’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) activities organised in resource centres known as Safe Spaces in Borno, Adamawa and the Yobe States largely depend on the availability of stationery materials.

On Thursday, June 11, the world’s leading stationery brand BIC donated 28,000 writing and coloring items to IOM.

The donation—color pencils, pens and whiteboard markers—will support IOM’s MHPSS to IDPs. IOM’s MHPSS programme in Nigeria began in the aftermath of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014.

Today, mobile teams operate Safe Spaces in 13 locations – seven in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, Jere and Konduga, and six in harder-to-reach locations.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these mobile teams have readjusted their intervention by providing door-to-door assistance to IDPs instead of to large gatherings, which might increase the risk of disease transmission.

IOM Nigeria MHPSS Programme Manager, Olga Rebolledo, explains “Safe Spaces in IDPs camps provide social, ritual and recreational activities as well as informal education for adults and children.

“Artistic workshops and other recreational activities, as well as informal education sessions such as languages and math, require material support: pens and other writing and coloring products.”

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Additional services include psychosocial first aid, small-scale conflict mediation, lay counselling, gender-based violence (GBV) sensitisation and awareness-raising.

Head of IOM sub-office in Lagos, who received the donation on behalf of IOM during a handover ceremony, Abraham Tamrat, says “this contribution signals the key role of the private sector to continue delivering assistance to conflict-affected populations including children who would otherwise have no access to these materials. We are immensely grateful for BIC’s support for IDPs in Nigeria.”

In 2019, IOM MHPSS teams reached 205,051 individuals living in camps, camp-like settings and host communities in Nigeria.

IOM promotes positive coping mechanisms and resilience among the displaced population by allowing men, women and children to express their fears and hopes through artistic workshops.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response in late March 2020, IOM MHPSS teams have reached 14,796 individuals living in camps, camp-like settings and host communities through various MHPSS services and activities across field locations in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

BIC’s Business Development Manager for Nigeria, Adeyemi Ojo, says “at BIC, we believe that we have a responsibility to make a meaningful contribution to our communities and we are proud to support the International Organization for Migration with their activities in Nigeria.”

Adding, Ojo said, “stationery products can be used in a number of activities that enable students to continue their education and help reduce stress and anxiety. We hope that the BIC writing and coloring items donated today will have a positive impact on the adults and children who will use them.”