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Nigeria: Humanitarian Coordinator calls for camp decongestion amid fire incidents, COVID-19

20 Apr 2020

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16 April 2020, Ngala town, Borno State, Nigeria: Fire outbreak in International School Camp in Ngala town. Credit: Intersos

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has expressed deep sorrow following the deaths of several people in multiple fire incidents in camps sheltering internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State.

At least 14 people died following a fire on 16 April at the International Secondary School camp, in the Ngala Local Government Area in Borno, near the Cameroon border. Fifteen people were injured. Fires also devastated the Monguno Waterboard camp in northern Borno, the third such incident at the camp in a week.

“These tragedies come unfortunately among a series of recurring incidents during the dry season, despite regular awareness-raising efforts made by the humanitarian community in IDP camps,” said Mr. Kallon.

Around 15 fire incidents have been recorded in camps for internally displaced people since the beginning of the year affecting more than 15,000 people.

Mr. Kallon also called for urgent measures to decongest overcrowded camps to address the root cause of the problem.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly spreading across the country, I am extremely worried about the 1.8 million IDPs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states and the rest of the nearly 8 million vulnerable people in these conflict-affected states,” he said.

Together with state and federal authorities, UN and international non-governmental organizations in Nigeria are working on an expansion of the IDP camps to mitigate the risk of fire incidents and the rapid spread of diseases such as COVID-19.

“It is our duty to do our utmost to protect the most vulnerable from another tragedy, whether it is a fire or the COVID-19 virus,” said Mr. Kallon.

Mr. Kallon also expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of a health worker who died on 18 April after contracting COVID-19.

“Despite the risks, this Nigerian health worker was devoting his life to treating vulnerable internally displaced persons who have lost everything during the conflict raging in the north-east. He had no travel history outside of Borno State and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Mr. Kallon.