After escaping the bullets of suspected Fulani mercenaries who are sacking communities in parts of Benue state, no fewer than 32 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs have been reported dead in the last one week in makeshift camps scattered around North Bank area of Makurdi town for the IDPs.
Saturday Vanguard’s investigation revealed that among the dead were children and the elderly who in the last few weeks fled the escalating crisis and have been exposed to harsh conditions in the camps most of which were created by the IDPs themselves.
Investigations further revealed that most of the camps have been badly hit by childhood killer diseases like measles, diarrhea and malaria while majority of the children are also malnourished.
Another worrisome development in the camps is the issue of open defecation due to lack of adequate toilet facilities for the inmates which has exposed the IDPs to air and water borne diseases.
One of the displaced persons, who gave her name as Mrs. Member Ikpa, told Saturday Vanguard that she lost her three months old baby two days ago after the baby suddenly developed constant stooling and vomiting.
She said, “I had my baby just five days before the Fulani sacked us from our homes, one week after getting here, I noticed she started stooling and vomiting. I started giving her drugs but days later she died.
”Apart from my baby, about ten other children and babies have also died in the last few days within this our area. The situation is beyond the state government, we are pleading for the federal government to intervene and assist with relief materials and drugs,” Member said as she wept.
At the LGEA primary school North Bank and LGEA primary school Ichwa both of which houses over 3,000 displaced persons, Saturday Vanguard gathered from some of the inmates that they have been recording deaths in the camps almost on a daily basis.
According to one John Ternenge “In the last one week, we have lost over 13 children and elderly people in this camp, in fact four days ago, six persons died here at Ichwa on the same day. We also heard that we have lost several of our relatives at the LGEA primary school. “ he said.
Meantime, two days ago, the Chairman of the Benue Network of Non Governmental Organizations, BENGONET, Barr. James Gbagir, lamented on state radio that the condition in the camps was fast deteriorating.
Gbagir said, “apart from the poor condition and the overpopulated camps, the security of the camps also leaves much to be desired.”
Speaking on the development to Journalists in Makurdi, the Benue State Commissioner of Information, Mr. Justin Amase debunked reports that people were dying in the camps.
Amase said, “I know that the Commissioner of Health and his team have taken it upon themselves to ensure that medical and other services were rendered to the displaced persons in the camps; though I would not say nobody died but the truth is that some of the deaths may not be connected to poor condition in the camps.”
BY PETER DURU, Makurdi