Disaster is a crisis situation causing wide spread damage which often exceeds the coping capacity of the affected community or people. These are not totally discrete events. Their possibility of occurrence, time, place and severity can be reasonably and in some cases accurately predicted by technological and scientific advances. Whether natural or human induced, disasters cause deaths of people, injuries and displacement of victims who live at the mercy of humanitarian service providers.
In trying to provide succor to victims of disasters who are usually displaced, government, humanitarian organizations and well meaning individuals commit funds and materials that are distributed to the victims. In Nigeria, the insurgency in parts of the North East is one major security challenge that has been consuming the nation’s human, material and financial resources. Report from a recent Data Tracking Matrix (DTM) survey by the International Organization for Migration and National Emergency Management Agency reveal that there are presently about 2.1million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), out of which insurgency is responsible for about 1.8million in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Some of these have also fled to other contiguous states and neighbouring countries such as the Republics of Cameroun, Niger and Tchad.
As usual, relief interventions are made by governments, groups and individuals to alleviate their sufferings. However, as laudable as these, there appear to have been recent doubts on the transparent management of the humanitarian aids. This had arisen from reports of alleged diversion of relief materials in the process not adequately reaching the desired beneficiaries.
However, it must be noted that the task of catering for such a large number of dependants at such a time of economic recession is no doubt herculean. This is more so because no special intervention has been given to NEMA, the coordinating agency for disaster management in the country. The agency which has the mandate to formulate and coordinate policies and resources for efficient disaster management in the country, has always been receiving commendation for job well done and even sometimes criticisms.
Unfortunately, not many are aware of the coordinating roles of NEMA and the involvement of many ministries, departments and agencies of government as well as many other local and international NGOs, including the United Nations systems in Nigeria. Besides, the challenge of feeding over 2.1 million people is quite enormous as the population is about those of some countries. This may be why the federal government has gone a step further by recent directive in scaling up the humanitarian coordination through the special ministerial task force chaired by the Minister of Budget and National Planning with membership including ministers of line ministries. All of these are aimed at augmenting the response of the various affected state governments that have primary responsibilities to the people in the localities.
The coordinated responses by the Federal and State governments have often been misconstrued by uninformed allegations and misinformation with the tendencies of attributing baseless false claims that often affect the morale of the humanitarian workers and agencies. Whereas NEMA represents the Federal government, the states through their owned emergency management agencies (SEMAs) have been doing a lot that deserved commendation rather than condemnation. Not to deny existence of some instances of misconducts in the states, such are always dealt with after thorough investigations.
Despite perceived inadequate funding, investigation reveals that NEMA has been delivering foods and non-food items to the IDPs on a monthly basis, depending on amount of funds available to it. The agency usually hands over the items to states that receives on behalf of the IDPs and subsequently releases to the camps for distribution. Therefore, it has become imperative for the Governors to investigate the activities of their officials with a view to clearing the suspicion.
It is heartwarming that various international donors are contributing to the welfare of the IDPs. The Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning is supposed to be the clearing house for all of these international interventions. NEMA has already clarified that it has not received donation of aid from any international organizations as these are often channeled directly through their branches and affiliates here in Nigeria and therefore only accountable to their donors. These checks are necessary for an improved humanitarian responses and disaster management in the country.
Saleh writes from Abuja