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[Investigation] Abandoned by Plateau Govt, 200 displaced families dying of sickness and hunger

A sorry tale of death, disease and decay at the Gashish IDP camp in Nigeria’s Plateau State
Families at the camp in Gashish are helpless, Without food, money and their farms, they survive on occasional donations and handouts. Picture by The Daily Report

The living conditions of over 200 resettled Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Gashish community of Barkin Ladi LGA (Plateau State) is worrisome and require urgent intervention. Earlier in 2019, some 40,000 persons fled in fear from their communities to avoid being killed by armed invaders.

By December, the state government moved hundreds of survivors to the camp, a primary school, in Gashish; ten months later, the resident families lack food, portable water and medical care. Even more troubling s the fact that they live in overcrowded spaces and sleep on bare floors; under these circumstances, the chances of the spread of communicable diseases, especially the dreaded coronavirus, is high. 

Some of the affected persons say that with government failing to provide the security it promised them, they live in constant fear of being attacked again.

Correspondent Joyce Gonchen visited the camp for The Daily Report and filed this story, made possible with the support of Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (JERF).

According to reports, over 40,000 persons from communities in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State were displaced in 2019, the result of an insurgency which forced them out of their homes. They left everything behind.

Living in crowded rooms at the makeshift accommodation, both the old and the young on the camp are falling sick from communicable diseases. Picture by The Daily Report

They were later taken to 17 different camps in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Jos South, Bokkos and Mangu areas of the state. But the overcrowded spaces of the IDP camps mean many of them have to sleep on cold bare floors and in classrooms; and with no mattresses or blankets, others make do with temporary, fragile makeshift shelters, which sometimes support eight to 10 extended families.

The camps also have limited access to food, sanitation and portable water. There is no schooling for the young ones, and neither is there provision for basic healthcare service, making the population totally dependent on hand outs and donations.

In a bid to rescue the situation, the Plateau State Government made efforts to safely resettle them back to their host communities with promises of adequate security and assurances that there would be no further and future threats to their lives and property. It also stressed that those whose houses were destroyed would be supported to rebuild.

10 months later, however, these promises haven’t been kept. The affected families didn’t just lose family members and personal effects, they also lost their farmlands.

When The Daily Report visited the isolated Gashish community of Barkin Ladi, some of the returnees confirmed that they were simply relocated to a primary school on an open field and in classrooms without windows; worse still, they have no mattresses or food to live on. Simply put, they have not heard a word from the Plateau State government since December 2019.

They called on well-meaning Nigerians to come to their aid as the children are suffering from hunger, malnourishment and cold-related illnesses.

The kids at the camp in Gashish are most vulnerable. And they have no school time. Photo by The Daily Report

Mr Daniel Jok, the makeshift Camp Coordinator, says that their lives are still in danger. They still have to find alternative shelter as they still face recurrent attacks. He added that with the wave of coronavirus incidents in the state, they are left at the mercy of God.

Mrs chundung Yakubu, whose husband was recently attacked, lamented that lack of  funds have crippled the treatment process of her husband who is currently at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH).

On his part, Mr. Machif Gyang stressed the need for proper rehabilitation for the returnees as the current hardship is pushing the youths into anti-social behaviours.

A typical room at the camp in Gashish. The relocated families sleep on cold, bare floors with no windows to shield them from the harsh weather. Picture by The Daily Report

Also speaking to The Daily Report, a caregiver to the returnees Mrs Nvou Pwajok appealed to government to fulfil its promises to the affected persons as their lives were still under threat.

She added that with the increase in Covid-19 cases in Plateau State, some of the classrooms have as many as 70 returnees, a situation that makes it almost impossible to observe the necessary precautionary measures.

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