The Pulka village camp in Gwoza local government area of Borno state which has a population of nearly 60, 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) is facing major challenges in terms of access to food and water.
According to the Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) otherwise known as Doctors without Borders, the continuing influx of displaced persons into Pulka has placed enormous strain on the relief resources available with the town’s population having doubled due to the displacements caused by the conflict.
MSF’s Head of Mission in Nigeria, Luís Eguiluz, said about 200 personnel of his organisation work on daily basis to provide medical care for the surging population of IDPs who are mostly women and children. Last week, Mr. Eguiluz conducted a two-day visit to Pulka village camp where he observed firsthand how most of the displaced persons are coping with the extremely difficult situation there. Despite the presence of MSF, many women complained of difficulty in accessing medicines.
The MSF chief said that although Pulka, which is 100 kilometers from Maiduguri, is relatively secure as the community has a significant protective military presence, humanitarian workers can only access it by air. MSF is providing primary and secondary medical care, and a large number of women and children are in dire need of “emergency services, maternal and mental health care”.
Given the trauma they have suffered, including witnessing the violent deaths of loved ones and sexual violence, mental health care is an area of urgent need with the MSF providing crucial support in this regard.
The MSF chief noted also that water security is an issue especially considering the town’s rocky terrain and women spend more hours on queue to access the few water points that have been created. There are currently about 15,000 children in the camp, many of whom are unaccompanied because their parents are either killed or missing. Except for activities organized by MSF, the children are idle since the schools are closed.
Eguiluz also noted that the few non-governmental organisations that operate in Pulka are hamstrung by lack of capacity as they do not have adequate, trained or experienced staff and are unable to meet the needs of the population.
The influx of IDPs into Pulka is also creating a shelter shortage. The large number of IDPs have eaten up space and tents making it difficult for the returnees of Pulka. “There are currently more than 7,000 people waiting for shelter. Of these, 6,000 are living outside, exposed to the cold nights of Pulka,” Eguiluz said. MSF is monitoring the conditions because the risk of epidemics, such as measles and meningitis, is exacerbated by the lack of adequate shelter.