The first thing you notice when you step into the camp the first time is the attention being paid to you; the look on the faces of the residents tells two stories which affects you, depending on the perspective you look at. There is that look of resilient despair, a face that has seen enough traumatizing moments and incidents that cannot be comprehended; they have seen loved ones killed, their houses razed and their homes destroyed. The wives and mothers have watched their husbands annihilated while some of the children saw their parents decapitated in their presence, and schools blown apart.
There was in their eyes that fear that terrors bury inside victims that usually survive a turbulent war; that traumatic torture that causes a recurrent and horrendous emotion but yet, there is also a measure of hope and gratitude on their faces, a smile which sometimes breaks into laughter. They will be regarded as lucky to have survived a gruesome experience and hoping for a better tomorrow.
They may have lost everything, their family, businesses, their homes and their identity, but the faces of residents at the Uhogua Camp for internally displaced persons brightened at any visitor that comes into the place they call home for now.
It was three days to Christmas and a team from Dominic Oneya Foundation (DOF) visited the camp to felicitate with their fellow Nigerians who had become victims, displaced from their communities due to the terrorist activities of the terror group Boko Haram since 2013.
“We are lucky to have survived the constant attacks by Boko Haram,” said Halima, a young teenager said while speaking with Mr. Dereck Oneya, board secretary of the foundation on the visit, “so many of us saw our parents, our friends killed and escaped death by the whiskers.”She was supposed to have written her junior secondary school certificate had things continued smoothly but she now makes do with the education she gets from the camp where she resides in with her mother and two brothers.
She is among the hundreds of Nigerians displaced by the insurgency in the North East and has never been outside her community until 2013 when the camp was designated an IDP facility. The camp was until 2013 accommodated members of the International Christian Centre but had become a safe heaven for the hundreds of refugees from the north-eastern states of the country that were being ravaged by the insurgent group.
Located at Uhogua community in Ovia Northeast Local Government area of Edo State, the camp has over 2000 internally displaced persons comprising of men, women, and children with women and children making up 90 percent of the residents in the centre.
Mr.Solomon Folurunsho is the coordinator at the camp and told the visitors that some of the people in their care have been through very torturous experiences and have been exposed to acts of terrorism and bloody conflict that they are still taking adequate time to counsel and rehabilitate them.
“If you listen to the stories some of these people went through then you will be overwhelmed with emotion and might want to show them nothing but compassion,” Folurunsho said, “some of them watched their husbands, wives and at times, their whole family blown to pieces and this happened in their own country.”
The Dominic Oneya Foundation, a non-governmental organization established with a mission to work for the social development of the underprivileged children, young people and families in the society, in the spirit of Christmas, decided to visit the camp and share some seasonal supplies with them. The foundation, according to Oneya, has an objective of partnering with the camp management in the New Year to initiate programs that would be beneficial to the victims and residents in the camp in the area of education, mental wellbeing, and health.
The IDP Program Director for the Foundation, Mr. Chukutem Ogwu, announced that in the coming days the children would be receiving some of the educational materials set aside to kick-start the program.“We want to assure each and every one of you that though life did not give you a choice in the predicament that you saw yourselves in, we have made the decision to be part of your recovery and progress in life. We have decided that in the coming months, the foundation will put together an IDP outreach team that would be responsible for programs centred on IDP’s around the country with the pilot program starting in Edo State.
“We will be putting up an Assisted Educational Model that will help in consolidating the education being given to the children as well as the women in the camp. The objective is to keep the children engaged and make them realize that the fear that the terror group might have tried to put in them concerning education should be discarded. Resource teachers will be brought in and materials made available for them to be able to get back on track in their educational pursuit,” he said.
While taking the team around, the coordinator explained that the camp is in urgent need of a health care post to tend to the many patients needing medical attention.“One of the facilities we need urgently is a clinic so we can handle many of the children that need medical attention and also we need drugs and food,”Folorunsho said stating that the camp has a visiting nurse who is usually overwhelmed with cases whenever she makes her round.
“We are appealing to the foundation to help us in getting a functioning clinic to take care of the many cases of sicknesses we record.”While presenting the items donated to the camp, Oneya promised that the foundation would start up advocating on behalf of the camp, to raise funds to alleviate the Healthcare challenge the victims were facing.
“The Foundation is prepared to forge collaborations and partnerships with the private sector, individuals, local, state and federal government agencies to enhance the sustainability of its projects and I want to assure you that these Nigerians, our brothers and sisters will be beneficiaries of these initiatives. We want to assure them that we will be standing with them and have their back.”