Over 4,000 displaced men, women, children in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Dikwa are sheltering in the open, while being screened by the Nigerian Army after fleeing military operations in the area.
“We’re extremely concerned by the dire living conditions of families in Dikwa who’ve recently fled military operations. Children are sleeping outside with nothing over their heads. With the rains now hitting the area, they risk becoming sick with malaria, diarrhoea or typhoid,” said Cheick Ba, Country Director, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Aid agencies are overwhelmed as hundreds of displaced people arrive to Dikwa every day, after fleeing Mallam Kari village in Bama and other neighbouring communities, due to hostilities between the Nigerian Army and armed opposition groups. Before being allowed to settle in new towns, the new arrivals undergo a screening conducted by the military.
Over 600 displaced people are currently being kept in an unused roofless gas station while waiting to be screened by the army. Some 4,000 others, who are already screened, are being held at a reception centre before being given temporary shelters. But the centre is full to the brink, forcing families to sleep outside. It is also common to see up to 15 women cramped in a single room while the men sleep outdoors.
The military report that it takes an average of two weeks to clear the displaced people. However, last year the same exercise took as long as one year in cases when the army claimed women were wives of Boko Haram insurgents.
In addition, the new arrivals have put pressure on the lives of the host community. “Our schools have been turned into camps for displaced families and our children can’t access education. This worries me a lot,” says Kachalla Isa, the head of the community. Only three of the eight schools in Dikwa are functional. Four schools are housing displaced people, while the army is using one as a military base.
NRC has so far built over 1,300 temporary homes for the new arrivals, and plans to build more shelters and toilet facilities in the coming weeks.