UN confirms 3-day fire outbreak at IDP camps, gives troubling details [Photos]

April 19, 2020
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The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has expressed 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.

Also affected was the International Secondary School camp, on 16th 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,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

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,” Kallon noted.

He said 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,” he said.

In Mafa, an elderly person who was sleeping in one of the shelters was burnt alive.

“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.

“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,” Kallon stressed.

Kallon disclosed that 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.

He said 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,” Kallom declared.

“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.”

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