Nigeria: Humanitarian Coordinator calls for joint efforts to decongest camps amid fire incidents and COVID-19 pandemic

News and Press Release
Originally published


ABUJA, 19 April – The Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, has expressed deep sorrow over multiple fire outbreaks that devastated the Monguno Waterboard camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), in northern Borno State, on 14, 15 and 18 April and the International Secondary School camp on 16 April in the town of Gamboru, Ngala LGA, Borno State, near the border to Cameroon.

“My heartfelt sympathy goes to the many vulnerable families who are affected. These are the worst fire incidents recorded in camps for internally displaced in the north-east so far this year,” said Mr Kallon.

At least fourteen people lost their lives in the fire incident in Ngala on 16 April. Fifteen others were injured, while seven are still treated in a clinic run by aid organisations. Over 300 shelters were damaged, and a communal shelter hosting 11 families also burned down. More than 8,000 people already displaced by the ongoing crisis once again lost their belongings and shelters. Aid workers are now working around the clock to mobilise support such as food, shelter and essential items like mattresses, pots, soap and clothes.

On 18 April, another fire broke out in the Waterboard camp in Monguno LGA, which is the third such incident recorded in the camp in a week. Initial assessments indicate 100 shelters were entirely burnt down.

“These tragedies come unfortunately among a series of recurring incidents during the dry season, despite regular awareness-raising efforts made by the humanitarian community in IDP camps,” highlighted the Humanitarian Coordinator.

Around fifteen fire outbreaks have been recorded in IDP camps since the beginning of the year affecting more than 15,000 people. As recently as 14 April, communities in both Mafa and Monguno LGAs were shocked by massive fires that destroyed at least 200 and 100 shelters, respectively. In Mafa, an elderly person who was sleeping in one of the shelters was burned alive. The risk of fire outbreaks, as well as the spread of disease, in camps for internally displaced persons in Borno State is extremely high due to overcrowding with makeshift and temporary shelters built too closely together.

“I am concerned that we will keep witnessing these recurrent tragedies unless we take urgent measures to jointly address the root cause of the problem,” stressed Mr Kallon. “With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly spreading across the country, I am extremely worried about the 1.8 million IDPs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states and the rest of the nearly eight million vulnerable people in these conflict-affected states. Camp decongestion has been a challenge, but it is now a priority. I call on all stakeholders to urgently contribute to efforts being made to decongest camps in respect of people’s rights and dignity.”

Together with the state and federal authorities, UN and INGOs are working on an expansion of the IDP camps to mitigate the risk of fire incidents and the rapid spread of diseases like the COVID-19 virus. One in two camps in Borno State are currently overcrowded with nearly 700,000 vulnerable IDPs living in such conditions.

“I have to commend the engagement of Borno State authorities and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs on this issue,” declared the Humanitarian Coordinator. “It is our duty to do our utmost to protect the most vulnerable from another tragedy, whether it is a fire or the COVID-19 virus.”

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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