Uprooted by Fear: More Displaced Nigerians Flock to Camps

April 03, 2014

Displacement camps in Nigeria are plagued with a lack of food, inadequate shelter, and poor sanitation. Christian Aid Mission is helping a local ministry provide for some of these needs, but conditions in the overcrowded camps continue to deteriorate.

Weary of the onslaught of terror by a militant Islamic group that preys on unprotected rural villagers, thousands of displaced Nigerians continue to flood into relief camps that are ill-equipped to handle the influx.

According to a Nigerian ministry leader, another wave of more than 50,000 people has rolled into the camps during the past month. He warned that people are dying and living conditions will only worsen without a large-scale response from overseas relief agencies.

While refugees may feel safer, the new monster lurking is hunger, illness, and inadequate sanitation. On March 29 the Nigerian daily newspaper, Vanguard, reported the deaths of more than 30 people–many of them babies and young children–in one week in makeshift camps in just one area. In another camp sheltering 3,000 displaced people, deaths are occurring on almost a daily basis, said residents.

Christian Aid Mission is assisting the Nigerian ministry in its response to the crisis. The leader sent the following update to the director of Christian Aid´s Africa division:

“Thank God for the open doors to visit the refugee camps where victims of the terrorist attacks are staying. Before we told you we had about 104,000 people who are in need of food, shelter, and medical attention. According to the officials in charge, now there are over 160,000 people in this camp. These are refugees coming from villages where their homes were burned and people were killed. Most of them are Christians or followers of traditional African religions. Those in charge of the camps come from Muslim-controlled states, so they do not give much aid to non-Muslims. Yet nothing is being done about the situation.

“We have been able to carry some clothing, food, medical supplies, and other things to the camps. We need your prayers and support to do more. The people are dying, and more people are coming to the camps as the terrorists continue to do harm in northern Nigeria. We have given out more than 130 Hausa audio Bibles to the people here. Many of them see this as their most important need for now—to hear the Word of God, even while dying.

“Pray for $4,000 to be provided to help these folks. We will be going into the camp this week. This is the open door for us, as the military allows only government agents here. They are giving us access because of our credibility and because we show no bias in helping the needy, Christians and Muslims alike.

“Something happened that could have closed those doors. We managed to smuggle in a camera to take at least a few pictures of what we are doing. Soldiers seized the camera and almost withdrew our license to enter the camp. They would not tolerate taking pictures at all. We have apologized and the officer in charge, who is a Christian, has allowed us to continue but without our camera. He will not give it back to us. That is not a problem, as we need to reach these people quickly.

“Time is running out. We need your prayers and we need support. Right now I am trying to get three new believers who were Muslims out of the camp. Please pray the officials will release them to me to take to our rehabilitation and discipleship camp.”

The ministry leader said he and three of the group´s missionaries will be distributing basic supplies to as many displaced families as they can. The needs are enormous and resources are few. Food, water, and blankets are among the items in short supply.

As the crisis intensifies, thousands of the displaced are leaving northern Nigeria altogether and migrating across the border into Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. The mass exodus is in response to terrorism inflicted by a radical Islamic group based in northeast Nigeria that targets rural communities, schools, churches, and government buildings in its quest to institute sharia law throughout the nation.

Along with emergency relief, Christian Aid Mission assists the Nigerian ministry in its gospel outreach and discipleship training among the Fulani, Hausa, and other ethnic people groups.