Over recent months, Benue State has been a hotbed of violence as brutal clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and local Agatu and Idoma farming communities have left dozens dead. Heavily armed with automatic weapons, mainly AK45 assault rifles, Fulani nomads have attacked villages, forcing residents to flee into IDP camps established by the state government.
Benue State health authorities now fear that the poor sanitary in some of the camps will result in the outbreak of disease as refugees now defecate in the open due to a lack of adequate toilet facilities. At the camp situated at the Nogoa Secondary School in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, the facility houses over 800 women and girls, close to 850 children and about 200 men and boys.
It only has two toilets facilities that served the students population of the school, which has forced the majority of the refugees to resort to defecating in nearby bushes. They also use drainage channels and open trenches thus exposing themselves and their neighbours to public health problems.
Emmanuel Onah, the camp coordinator, said: “Aside from open defecation which is practiced in the camp due to lack of toilets facilities, another major challenge we have is the fact that criminals infiltrate in order to access most of the relief materials that are meant for the genuine IDPs. We also have the problem of the inmates particularly children, falling sick and not being able to access medicare, which remains a major source of concern for everyone, since the camp opened a month ago.”
He added that the other three Agatu IDPs camps located in Ojantele, Ataganyi and Ugbokpo were also facing the same challenges. Mr Onah pointed out that the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (Sema) was doing its best for the people but noted that it required assistance from individuals and organisations to meet the needs of the IDPs.
According to Mr Onah, the executive secretary of Sema, Boniface Otese has promised to liaise with the Office of the Adviser to the Governor on Security to provide security for the refugees. Mr Otese said Sema was doing its best but would certainly not meet the demands of all the IDPs.