OPINION: Why we must unite against stigmatisation of IDPs

OPINION: Why we must unite against stigmatisation of IDPs

Editor's Note: The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have in recent times reportedly experienced stigmatisation by some community members in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

In an article sent to NAIJ.com, Sanusi Abdullahi Saidu, a student of University of Maiduguri explains the reason Nigerians need to be their brothers/sisters keepers.

He could be contacted via:

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have in recent times experienced stigmatisation by the community members insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

Think about your life for a moment. You live in a comfortable house with your family, you have a job that caters to your needs (even if you wish you were paid better), your kids attend good schools and you can afford to pay their school fees every term.

Now, imagine someone taking all of that away. Your home, your family, your child’s education, everything. And you are forced to live with 65 other families in a crowded school, where clean water is a luxury and your meal for the day is uncertain.

Stigmatisation of IDPs: The need to be brothers/sisters keepers


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That is the case of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno.

Internally displaced persons are people who have been forced to flee their homes due to disasters, violence or unrest but still remain within the borders of their country.

In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency has caused over 2 million people to be internally displaced, making Nigeria the home of Africa’s largest IDPs.

The scenario described above is no exaggeration. These people have lost everything and are now dependent on faith-based organisations, foundations and well-meaning individuals for their daily bread.

Boko Haram has been known to abuse women in captivity. But the stigma against being physically assaulted.

People are deeply traumatised of what they have gone through in the hands of Boko Haram, there is need for program that will provides psycho social support and mental health counselling to displaced people in the camps.

If you talk to the women they will tell you they have heard about sexual violence. But if you ask them to whom that has happened they will not talk, Because of the stigma, People prefer to settle their cases individually and let the survivors to bear their burden.

Many among the military and many civilians are quick to look with suspicion on people coming from Boko Haram-held areas.

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Though there is no evidence to suggest a deliberate attempt to punish a population suspected of complicity with the insurgents, there are alarming signs that their welfare is not being prioritised, whether out of a lack of capacity or concern or due to security concerns.

Even women captured, abused or forced into “marriage” by Boko Haram bear the stigma of their association, and their children are suspected of having “bad blood”.

This fear of “contagion” and, more concretely, of women and children by killers, is part of the problem.

This is one reason the only IDPs the army lets into Maiduguri, which already hosts an estimated 1.5 million, are children requiring sustained medical support, though sometimes without their carers. Conducting security operations should be kept distinct from humanitarian actions.

If not, those in genuine need of assistance risk being denied help; while entire communities stand in danger of neglect.

In such an environment, people are likely to feel increasingly alienated from the state, driving them to seek support elsewhere.

Humanitarian assistance must remain impartial and needs-based; while security measures must be proportionate to the risk – which will likely be reduced, not increased, by greater freedom of movement.

Failure to adequately support IDPs, in part because of suspicion that they support Boko Haram, may push them back into, or discourage them from leaving, insurgent-controlled areas.

Furthermore, it is entirely possible that Boko Haram’s attacks IDP camp to staunch the flow of people from areas under their control.

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It may be working to an extent. Some IDPs reportedly are choosing to return to their home areas, despite the risk of Boko Haram attacks, rather than staying in dire camps.

In the long term, failure to help those in need could further undermine the state’s legitimacy and capacity to control violence.

While the Nigerian military and its regional and international partners may be able to contain Boko Haram, unless the state addresses poor governance and other structural factors that drove people to support the movement.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.

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NAIJ.com recently visited the IDP camp near Abuja to see how children are being treated after the horrors they have their horrible experience. Watch out:

Source: Naija.ng

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