Desperation for the Displaced as Nigeria Closes Camps

Via HRW: Nigeria’s Borno State government is shutting down its camps for people displaced by the Boko Haram conflict, pushing more than 200,000 people already living in precarious conditions deeper into suffering and destitution. The shutdowns began in May 2021 and will continue through this year. A new report documents how the closures have compelled hundreds of thousands of people to leave the camps, and how, in not providing sustainable alternatives, the government is depriving people of adequate housing, food, and water. This has left people at risk in a region already deeply scarred by nearly 14-years of fighting between the Islamic armed group Boko Haram and government soldiers. The conflict has displaced more than 2 million people. The camp shutdowns and subsequent evictions are part of the government’s dubious agenda to wean desperate people off humanitarian aid.


Brutal Conflict

Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out an insurgency in Nigeria marked by brutality and human rights abuses, including targeted killings, suicide attacks against civilians, abductions, and burning and looting of towns and villages. The group received international notoriety when it abducted 219 girls from the Chibok secondary school in 2014. In its response to the insurgency, Nigerian security forces have also been responsible for horrific acts against civilians, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests and detention. Hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been killed since the conflict began, either directly or because of rampant disease and hunger wrought by the conflict’s destruction. In Borno State alone, the conflict has driven 1.8 million people from their homes into government-run camps.


Displacement and Fear

And now the government is closing the camps. Human Rights Watch interviewed displaced people from the camps who were forced to relocate and saw access to food, water and other necessities dry up.

Click here for a photo essay documenting experiences of people we interviewed.

Many said that even before the camps closed, they suffered severe hunger, especially after food rations were cut. To support themselves and their families, some sold firewood or hand-knitted caps while others carried out day labor or traded in scarce food items, earning up to $1.21 USD daily, not enough to support their basic needs. Now the situation is even more dire. As one displaced person told Human Rights Watch, “We already suffered at the hands of Boko Haram before now and we are still suffering at the hands of the government.”

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