Until recent years, the classification Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) was not in common use in the country. Although the country has witnessed some crises in past years, having IDP camps was not as pronounced as we now have; no thanks particularly to the activities of the Book Haram terrorists mainly in Northeastern parts of the country.
So many have been displaced across various states for one reason or the other that the government and other organisations have had to establish camps to cater for them.
Last Thursday, I was part of a stakeholders’ round table meeting on a project titled: Monitoring Media Reportage and Portrayal of IDPs in Africa’ organised by Journalists for Christ International Outreach with the support of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), Bread for the World, and Waldensian Church’s Otto per Mille (OPM) Office in Italy.
The project will examine the media portrayal and reportage of and about IDPs in Nigeria, Kenya and DRC with a view to identifying gaps in reportage within the context of advancing in-depth reportage on displaced persons in Africa.
It also aims at galvanising stakeholders to respect and uphold basic rights and principles in line with OCHA ‘Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement’ intended to enhance an effective and timely response to the needs of IDPs.
Based on the contributions of participants at the meeting, it was agreed that though the media has been reporting about the plight of displaced persons in the country, a lot still has to be reported about the various challenges they are coping with and the need for necessary actions to be taken by the government, local and international organisations.
Beyond the occasional reports, mainly when government officials visit the IDP camps, it was noted that there was need for more in-depth coverage on salient issues of conditions of the camps, lack of basic facilities, human rights abuses, transparency in disbursement of funds and others.
What usually comes to mind when IDPs and their camps are mentioned is the provision of relief materials, but the displaced persons need more than basic relief materials to cope with the trauma of being displaced from their homes or losing their family members.
Most of the IDPs have gone through harrowing experiences that subjecting them to some inhuman living conditions amounts to double tragedy for them. The huge amounts government and support organisations claim to spend on catering for displaced persons are sometimes not commensurate with what is available in the camps.
Early in the week, I watched a report of epidemic outbreak in a camp in Cross Rivers State due to lack of enough doctors to attend to infected persons.
Except in instances where circumstances that led to the displacement of a group of persons remain unresolved, IDP camps are not supposed to be permanent. Necessary steps have to be taken to as quickly as possible return the victims to their natural abode with provisions made for their resettlement.
Hopefully, the media monitoring project should reveal the gaps in media coverage and provide a basis to demand for best practices in catering for displaced persons in Nigeria.