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Nigeria: Providing safety during conflict

14 Nov 2016

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The National Emergency Management Agency is establishing camps to help provide a safe and peaceful environment for those displaced by Boko Haram violence.

Millions of people in Nigeria’s north-east were displaced due to Boko Haram violence, now in its seventh year. More than 1 million people moved within the most affected areas in Borno state, while others fled further afield seeking a better life and safety from conflict. The National Emergency Management Agency is now establishing camps to help provide that safety.


Mohammed Yatua, originally from Gwoza, Borno state, is one of the millions of people who fled Boko Haram violence. He now makes mats and sells them in the market for the equivalent of US$3. Credit: OCHA/Ó. Fagan

Mohammed Yatua sits outside his shelter in Malkoi camp for displaced people, located on the outskirts of Yola. More than 1,500 people have set up home in the camp, which is managed by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and was once the grounds of a school.

Mohammed is making a mat from grass he collected around the camp. It takes him two weeks to weave, and he receives ₦1,000 (US$3). “We’re here two months now, and there is a demand for mats, so I sell them to others in the camp,” he said.

Like thousands of others, Mohammed, his family and friends were driven from their home in Gwoza when the violence became too intense. When Boko Haram attacked remote villages, homes were razed and infrastructure, crops and animals were destroyed. Those left behind either had to join the rebels or were killed. Those lucky enough to escape left their homes with just the clothes on their back.

Mohammed and his family spent three months in a transit camp before they were allowed to leave and brought to Malkoi camp. His friend Madu Mallam now shares a tent with the 10 members of his family. “I was a farmer in Gwoza,” said Madu, showing the hardened skin on his hands as proof. “This is a good place,” he says of Malkoi camp. “You see we have a school for the children, and some people can leave the camp and go to the farms.”

There were few choices for the families who fled the violence: some found themselves living in makeshift settlements, others in host communities and others, like Mohammed and Madu, in official camps. But local government officials had insufficient funds to accommodate the movement of such large numbers of people, so they enlisted the help of NGOs and UN agencies.


Women in Malkohi camp received help to set up a small market area in the camp, enabling them to support their families. Credit: OCHA/Ó. Fagan

NEMA set up Malkoi camp in Malkoi Local Government Area (LGA). Working alongside NEMA, the NGOs installed boreholes and water and sanitation facilities to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. NEMA ensured that the camp’s residents received other basic services. The camp has a market where women sell goods, such as washing detergent, food and bags, and the men run a tailoring shop close to the market. An open-sided shed provides space for a tea room where the men gather to chat and drink tea, providing the owner with a small income. The NEMA mobile health clinic regularly visits and uses a generator to provide power for minor operations, while the 24 pregnant women in the camp use the maternity facility run by a midwife.

The head of NEMA’s Operations Office in Yola, Sa’ad Bello, is proud of how well his staff manage the camp. When the women complained that they couldn’t cook during the rainy season, their issue was raised with camp management and brought to Sa’ad, who took their concerns on board. A tin roof was put on the common cooking house, which now enables the women to continue with their work.


A man sells meat at his make-shift shop in the informal camp in Malkohi, Yola, Adamawa. Credit: OCHA/Ó. Fagan

Sa’ad explained that food distributions will reduce now that the harvest is about to be reaped, but they will continue supplying families with oil, condiments and non-food items as required. Some people wish to return to their farms, while others are happy to stay until they are sure that things are in place before they return.
Sa’ad explained: “We are encouraging people to go back to their original LGA, but we expect that at least 10 to 15 per cent will remain. On occasion, people start to do well with a business, and many would prefer to stay where they know they can have an income and provide for their families.”

Whatever the future holds for the camp’s displaced people, one thing is certain: they deserve the opportunity to raise their children in a peaceful environment, free of fear.