KADUNA, Nigeria 28 March (IRIN) - A home-grown humanitarian effort is underway in the northern city of Kaduna to help an estimated 50,000 people displaced by religious violence last month in which hundreds died.
Sacks of maize, beans, and bundles of second-hand clothing are piling up at the Kaduna branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) from chapters across the country. A similar effort has been launched by Muslim groups to assist the displaced sheltering in makeshift camps dotted around the city. There have also been donations from international organisations.
"These people now made homeless don't know when they will return. Most of their needs are clothing and bedding, but we still need more food," Anthony Okuda of CAN's local relief committee told IRIN. He estimated that 70 percent of the displaced are Christians.
Simon Ketah and 13 family members are among the 300 homeless sheltering at the Hekan Church in Kaduna. His house was burnt down on 21 February, the first day of the violence in Kaduna, in which Christians clashed with pro-Sharia Muslims in three days of street battles that devastated parts of the city's low-income neighbourhoods.
"We are just hanging on, we are still searching for somewhere to put ourselves," he said. "Everything I had they burnt, even the kitchen is not there anymore. Even the clothes we are wearing were given to the majority of us."
Facilities at Hekan are overstretched. In two large rooms, families try to make the best of their situation. One anxious mother presented her sick child suffering from measles to a group of CAN officials who said they would alert their medical committee. There are no health personnel at the church.
At Nasarawa in Kaduna South, a school has been turned over to a mixed population of Muslims and Christians. "It's a deliberate policy to try and help people to live together again, and it's working," Wakili Kadama, a member of the state government's resettlement and rehabilitation committee said.
The people at Nasarawa that IRIN spoke to agreed, but pointed out that their most pressing problem was the need for rehabilitation. "Nigeria has been helping the world to settle problems and we would appreciate it if the world would come in at this moment of our trial to settle our problem," one man said.
An estimated 600 people died in the Kaduna clashes. Homes, shops and livelihoods were also lost in the violence. "The scale of the problem is devastating," Kadama said. "Certainly the state government cannot cope on its own. More support is needed from whoever can assist."
Those seeking compensation from the federal government for property losses are being registered by CAN, after authentication by their local churches. But given the now common outbreaks of communal clashes across an increasingly restless Nigeria, Okuda is unsure of the government's ability to honour its commitment to pay reparations. "If they pay here, they must pay all the others," he said.
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