From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society, yesterday, launched Ramadan campaign to raise funds for 3.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria.

Speaking during the event in Abuja, UNHCR Associate Reporting Officer, Mohamed Rahmathullah, said the crisis of internal displacement in Nigeria has persisted for more than ten years.

Rahmathullah gave the breakdown of the IDPs to include 2.3 million in the North-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe; Northwest and North Central with 1.1 million, including two million Nigerian refugee returnees and 64,000 Cameroonians.

Rahmathullah further said currently 3.4 million people in Nigeria are internally displaced, adding  that 3.4 million is an astounding number.

“We should strive to see the human faces behind the digit and contextualize the individual stories of hardship, suffering and loss. They are men, women and children who have fled their homes because of violence and conflict and gross human rights violations,” Rahmathullah said.

The UNHCR official also said 3.4 million horrific journeys exacerbated by the fear of losing one’s life, or the life of loved ones.

“Not just numbers, but decade long relentless and tragic suffering. This includes: 2.3 million IDPs in the Northeast Nigeria, in the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) States, 1.1 million IDPs in NW and North Central. Additionally, two million Nigerian refugee returnees and 64,000 Cameroonian refugees hosted in three states in the Southern part of Nigeria.

“Over 342,000 Nigerian refugees who have sought asylum in the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger due to violence and insecurity in the Northeast and Northwest. Today’s event however will only focus specifically on internal displacement in Nigeria,” Rahmathullah also said.

Rahmathullah added that while much of the collective attention and focus has been on the BAY states in the Northeast  where the IDP situation has prolonged for so long, UNHCR and its partners were becoming increasingly concerned about the critically deteriorating security situation in Northwest where violence and banditry are aggravating communities and forcing families to flee their homes.

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“As people who are engaged in the humanitarian sector, we all should bear in mind, that despite these wary developments and the overall exacerbated IDP situation in the country, the resilience, the strength, and courage of people forced to flee have never faded. Despite the hardship and uncertainties that lies ahead of them, they strive do something to augment the meagre humanitarian assistance provided to them. Among them, the majority of whom are women and children, remain incredibly strong and resilient. Despite forced displacement, sometimes multiple times, these families are keen to become self-reliant again, send their children back to school, find means of livelihood and one day, when attacks cease and long-term peace is safely restored, return to their home,” Rahmathullah further said.

He explained that UNHCR and its partners provide core relief items, including soap, sleeping mats, blankets, plastic sheeting, cooking sets, domestic utensils, dignity kits for women and girls of childbearing age, mosquito nets and clothing when available.

“These are items that perhaps, we may take for granted, but for a family that has fled their home with nothing more than the clothes on their back, these basic items provide much relief and helps restore the dignity for people who have lost everything. We also work to provide shelter, access to clean water, sanitation, food, and utensils to cook and store food.

“Together with our partners, our work extends from emergency relief to longer term assistance and support through access to protection safety nets programmes, psycho-social counselling and where and when feasible, assist in the safe returns of IDPs,” Rahmathullah added.

Rahmathullah further  said as the country witnessed increasing levels of internal displacement, UNHCR struggle to adequately respond to the growing humanitarian needs.

He disclosed that UNHCR has been chronically underfunded and so far, for the current year, has only received eight percent out of the $107 million it needed in 2024 to support the various populations of concern.

“Our traditional donors are also going through tough economic times due to conflicts, climate emergencies and collapsing economies that wreak havoc in communities around the world. Response plans for 2024 are ultra prioritized on the very urgent needs constricting budgets further. As such, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we need to come together and explore other opportunities to support the most vulnerable internally displaced families affected by the humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria,” he stated.

Also speaking, the National Chief Imam of Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society, Imam Fuad Adeyemi, expressed delight over the partnership.

Adeyemi said the funds raised through the partnership will go a long way to ameliorate the sufferings of the IDPs.

“We are pleased to partner with UNHCR to support people forced to flee their homes because of violence and conflict. Our fellow displaced brothers and sisters represent some of the most vulnerable among us. Each contribution of Sadaqah or Zakat, no matter how much or how little, will greatly support IDPs in need with the resources and tools to rebuild their lives,” Adeyemi said.