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Displaced people often struggle to access food, water, health care, shelter, education, and safety. The United Nations urges countries to care for these highly vulnerable populations. You can join us in taking action on related issues here

Fires tore through an internally displaced persons camp in Borno state, Nigeria, last week, destroying an estimated 1,200 tents and leaving 7,200 people without shelter, according to the Premium Times

The fires likely stemmed from a cooking fire that grew out of control, according to officials who spoke with the Premium Times. The camp’s lack of fire safety oversight and fire management teams make fires like this common, especially considering the overcrowded and underfunded nature of the camp.

Last year, a similar fire killed five children and further displaced 7,457 people in a refugee camp in Borno State, the Premium Times reports. 

“Most of the local people cook their meals in the open space outside their tents during the dry season,” Yabawa Kolo, the chairperson of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said. “And when the wind blows toward the direction, the shelters are easily razed by fire.”

Kolo’s agency has since delivered relief services and supplies to those affected. On Sunday, the 1,200 affected households received rice, beans, and maize, as well as mosquito nets and blankets. 

The newly precarious position these families find themselves in is emblematic of the broader turmoil that has come to define life in northern Nigeria in recent years. 

Since 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram has engaged in attacks on the government and communities throughout the region. 

Nearly 300,000 Nigerians have fled to other countries as a result, while more than 2 million people have been forced to leave their homes and find refuge in another part of the country, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency

This latter category is known as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Globally, there are 26 million refugees and 45.7 million IDPs, the UNHCR reports. Nearly 80% of the world’s displaced people are in areas with high food insecurity, and an estimated 40% are children. 

Roughly 60% of the IDPs in northeast Nigeria are children, which further complicates the multifaceted crisis. In addition to chronic food insecurity, children have a hard time receiving an education in the camps, which makes it harder for them to achieve their potential in life. This dynamic has only gotten worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the camps are highly crowded and lack adequate access to water and sanitation, the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak is elevated. To make matters even worse, people in the camp lack access to adequate health care. 

This was the web of hardship that the fires ripped through last week. After having fled for their lives, families now have to contend with a new form of homelessness amid a global pandemic.


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Fires in Nigeria Camp Leave 7,200 Displaced People Without Shelter

By Joe McCarthy