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The Disaster and Humanitarian Needs of 24-hr Curfew in Borno

The Nigerian military has imposed a 24-hr curfew on several quarters of Maiduguri and many towns and villages in Borno State. In a report today, the Sunday Trust said

“According to the JTF spokesman, the wards and areas where the curfew affected include Gamboru, Mairi Kuwait, Bakin Kogi, Kasuwan Shanu, Ruwan Zafi, 202 Quarters, Dikwa Housing Estate, Low Cost Sinimari, 505 Housing Estate, Chad Basin Area, 303 Housing Estate and Baga Road areas.”

Many local governments are completely locked out, with movements in them prohibited like in the above-mentioned quarters of Maiduguri. The entire town of Maiduguri itself has been under dusk to dawn curfew.

To worsen the situation, all communication facilities in Borno have been cut. This makes it difficult even for relatives to come to the aid of their own.

The military authorities have not mentioned how long this condition will last.

Disaster in MaiduguriThe problems that residents of areas covered by the curfew will be many. Maiduguri is among the hottest cities in Nigeria. People will need water direly and especially when we consider that the low water table in the Sahel makes it impossible for homes to dig wells that yield water at this time of the year. If there is any such facility in a neighbourhood, it will presently not be accessible to the hundreds of families it used to serve, no thanks to the curfew. Right now, there must be thousands of families without even a drop of water.

There is the need for food. The areas affected are not affluent enough to store food for a week or even few days. Many of the inhabitants are day workers who leave their homes every morning in search of what they would feed their families for the day. For the majority, a 24-hr curfew effectively means starvation. Right now, there must be thousands of families starving under this condition.

There are also the 24-hr healthcare needs of the people. The sick cannot be attended to. They will be forced to deteriorate or die. Many pregnant women whose delivery dates fall within the curfew days cannot be attended to by midwives, nurses or doctors. Those who need emergency attendance are likely to die, as would patients of high blood pressure and other emergency cases. Right now, there must be many people dying in their homes as a result of the curfew.

The good news sad situation can be avoided in a rich country like Nigeria. The bad news is that unless we citizens raise our voice, nothing will be done by those responsible.

In our debate about the state of emergency in Borno and other states, we have missed the obvious angle of relief and concentrated on preventing abuse by federal troops. Something must be done about relief by the various governments and agencies responsible for implementing the state of emergency.

The first is the federal government. What relief has it planned before announcing the state of emergency and what relief is it providing to the hundreds of thousands of people under the curfew and the IDPs that are forced to leave their homes? JTF and NEMA should explain. The fact that relief has been conspicuously absent in the activities of the federal government since the start of the insurgency is itself indicting.

The second are the governments of the state and local government areas affected. What relief have they planned for their people on whose behalf they receive subventions from Abuja every month? Will they allow them to starve to death without coming to their aid? They must wake up and answer the call of the needy.

The third are other state governments in the country and those in the North in particular. If they truly believe that the problem of Boko Haram is our common problem, they must come forward and provide succour to the needy in the affected areas. From Taraba to Sokoto we will be waiting for what relief materials will be sent to Borno.

Finally, individuals and NGOs must come forward. To stay afar and pray that God come to the aid of Borno and Yobe is not enough once we are in a position to do something, no matter how little. Religious organizations that have been collecting millions from their followers must rise to be counted.

The JTF should open a relief department with personnel dedicated to handling the logistics of relief that will come from individuals, organizations and governments. Not all of them should go out hunting for members of Boko Haram. Movement of such materials during a curfew requires inspection by JTF staff, permit and escort to the beneficiaries. If the JTF in Borno is like the STF in Plateau when we handled the Fulani crisis last year, it will welcome any humanitarian assistance.

I hope the media and people with access to the JTF and governments in the area will help us convey this important message.

We are also looking forward to the sons of Borno that will boldly and promptly rise to the occasion and offer to serve this purpose. The social media is here for them to utilize. That will open the door for us who are outside the disaster zone to come forward with the little that we can. I assure them that there are many friends that Borno can count on.

I look forward to see thousands of trucks of relief materials heading for Borno and driving through the neighbourhoods of Gomboru and Mairi where they will be dropping sachet water, food and drugs at the doorstep of NIgerians who are locked up in their homes and carried to those living as refugees in their own countries wherever they may be.

“Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.”

19 May 2013


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