Samuel Kyaahu, 46, lives in a makeshift tent with his wife and three children. It is from the confines of that small space that they find ways to navigate uncertainty and adapt to a new normal.
Four years ago, they were displaced from their village in Torkula along with many others and fled to the Mbawa Internally Displaced Peoples Camp in Daudu – a satellite town along the Makurdi-Lafia highway.
The camp, provided by international NGO Medecins Sans Frontiers, has tents for over 10,000 internally displaced persons, a health centre, and access to water and sanitation services, among other things.
But it is not home.
The IDPs want to return to the homes they were forced to flee and need the help of the government to rebuild, resettle and plan for a better future.
“I have three children here with me and they do not go to school. They are here suffering with me. I think tomorrow will be worse than this,” Samuel says, expressing fears for his children’s future under the circumstances.
Samuel and his family are not alone in this appeal. Comfort Bako who is pregnant with her 7th child says there is nowhere like home, if only security is assured.
“If the government can help us to stop the fight so that everyone can go back to their homes and work, we will be able to struggle as we were doing before to get something to take care of the children,” she says in pidgin English.
At the camp, there are many weary faces – from the aged to distressed mothers; all worrying about what to eat with their families and how to educate their children, a situation that gets tougher with each passing day.
Feeding is a major challenge for the IDPs. Due to the large population at the camp, the government’s food supplies are never enough. To supplement this, some of the IDPs resort to cooking almost-spoiled or perishing food items sourced from dealers in the local market.
“For the issue of food, the government is trying,” says Camp Manager Comfort Alugah. “But the government cannot satisfy everybody.”
Mrs Alugah attributes the challenge to the population at the camp which she put at 43,344.
In terms of health care, the Mbawa IDP camp has a maternal and child health clinic operated by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF).
The clinic has been providing care for the babies delivered in the camp and their mothers, with assistance from the Benue State Ministry of Health, ensuring safe delivery after months of antenatal services.
Interventions by the MSF at the camp also include the provision of emergency primary health care, emergency water and sanitation services, and shelter.
“We have also recently included programmes of reproductive health, and sexual and gender-based violence response,” says Project Coordinator MSF, Benue State, Prosper Ndumuraro.
MSF, which provides such medical intervention across the state, says the IDPs are doing better than when they first came to the camp but a lot more needs to be done.
The IDPs, while grateful to be alive, will rather bring up their families in their own homes, hence the continuous appeal for government to hasten the resettlement plans.