Forced Displacement (December 2019)

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Forced displacement is a global phenomenon, but its occurrence in the African continent is the highest in the world. As of December 2018, Africa has about 17.8 million displaced persons. Violent conflicts and disasters are notable causes of displacement. This figure is about 40 per cent of the global total. In the same year, there were about 7.5 million new displacements caused by existing and new violent conflicts and disasters.

In Nigeria, with numerous security issues and periodic natural disasters, the scale of displacement is always on the rise. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reports that, in 2018, violence and conflict led to about 541,000 new movements, while disasters caused about 613,000 displacements. Generally, Nigeria has about 2.2 million internally displaced persons, more than the population of Gabon, living in overloaded Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps nationwide. According to IDMC, causes of displacements in Nigeria are primarily due to insurgency in the Northeast, surge of inter-communal conflicts, massive flooding, amongst others.

Policy actions have mostly been focused on safe returns. It is also imperative to map out targeted interventions that seek to prevent violent conflicts and disasters that lead to displacement. Early warning mechanisms that will curb the escalation of avoidable conflict situations should be put in place. For instance, in most of the terror-troubled communities in the Northeast region, anecdotal accounts are that community members establish neighbourhood watch to monitor the influx of persons in their communities. These mechanisms have helped to mitigate attacks by insurgents.

Also, in communities prone to natural disasters like flooding, government should engage in massive construction of drainage systems that will curb menacing waves of erosion. Early warning signs could also be employed to dictate disasters to put in place measures that will reduce material and human losses. In riverine areas that are susceptible to flooding, with practical and timely evacuation plans, substantial losses can be avoided. Most environmental disasters are as a result of harmful environmental practices. Government should collaborate with civil society organisations that are focused on climate change to sensitise people against practices that can engender environmental disasters. Cases of displacement in Nigeria can be effectively remedied if adequate commitment is placed on understanding early warning signs and taking measures to avoid incidents.