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Many battles of Benue’s 40,000 displaced persons in Abagena

Having survived violent clashes between farmers and herders in Benue, displaced persons in the Abagena Internally Displaced Persons camp must now beat malaria and other common but life-threatening ailments to stay alive. As our correspondent finds out, this is easier said than done.

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For Mimidoo Ngutor, 29, and her baby, everyday they survive at the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Abagena, Benue State, is a miracle.

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Having escaped the violent clashes between herders and farmers in her native Guma Local Government Area of Benue State in January, heavily pregnant, she made her way to the displaced persons camp along Markurdi-Lafia Road, where they now must survive the ravages of malaria and diarrhoea daily. 

With her four-month-old baby balanced on her hip, Ngutor approached the camp’s mini clinic seeking medical attention for her child, who had been plagued by malaria and diarrhoea since he was born a few months after she arrived the camp.

“The situation is not peculiar to me alone,” she said. “Most children in the camp suffer the same ailments from time to time, some of them even died before receiving adequate help.”

Here she is just one of the 40,000 people who call the camp home. Since her community was sacked during the violent clashes in January, Abagena has been where she had lived over the last eight months. It is a place that has posed all sorts of challenges. The environment is harsh, sanitation is poor. It is overpopulated by both displaced persons and mosquitoes.

If not for the intervention of some medical personnel, Ngutor was not sure what their fates, hers and the thousand other mothers in the camp, would have been.

Apart from Ngutor, many children and their mothers were at the camp’s clinic waiting for their turns to be attended to by medical experts, consisting of doctors, nurses and pharmacist among others.

Some of the IDPs complain about shortages of drugs to carter to their numbers and their various ailments. Malaria, cold, cough and diarrhoea are prevalent in the camp and as a result of these shortages, they are left to source traditional treatment elsewhere except when donors or good spirited individuals visit the camp with aid.

Corroborating their story, a medic attending to the patients, said many of the IDPs, especially children are down with malaria and diarrhoea, mostly due to exposure to mosquitoes and the environment as well as lack of proper hygiene.

The medics also noted that some of the children were malnourished. “We are here to attend to their food needs as well as give them drugs to treat their ailment while serious cases are referred to hospitals in town,” the medic said.

The plight of the children propelled a firm to extend a helping hand to at least 15,000 children in the camp in Abagena. N10m worth of drugs and food were donated by Nexia Nigeria.

 Of the 40,000 people in the camp, 70 per cent are thought to be children. Nexia’s managing partner believes the intervention is crucial because of these numbers.

“Annually, we have a day set aside to celebrate Nexia Day. We choose to give back to the society on that day tagged, ‘Closer to you.’ We use that day to let our environment know that we care and that’s why we are here in Benue this year. For this 2018, we come to identify with IDPs in Benue who are going through crisis,” the firm’s Managing Partner, Abel Onyeke, said.

Represented by a manager of the firm, Gloria Akpata, Onyeke said the idea of focusing on children’s health this year stemmed from the fact that they are the most affected in terms of their overall health and hygiene among many other challenges.

They had sought for medical doctors, nurses and other health professional to administer prescription and drugs to the ailing children at the one-day medical outreach in some of the eight designated camps in the state.

“Most of the children here are ill and hungry. The prevalent cases handled so far included malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition so we brought along food as well for them to eat before taking their drugs. Also, some of the children will need exercise books and pencil, so we brought that along too,” Onyeke added.

For Ngutor and her baby, this intervention is crucial for their survival but as she shuffled in the queue, inching towards succour with her baby straddling her hips, it was clear there is no where she would rather be than home.

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