Recent research shows that there are over 4 million people in Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) in Nigeria. Most of them are women and children. They often don’t have shelter, clothes, food or clean water. They have lost a lot – their homes, jobs, some of them even lost their loved ones. They know firsthand, what hunger and starvation is. In this report, JOY YESUFU explores the need for Nigerian politicians to work towards not creating more of such camps as the 2019 general elections draw near.
Women, children and youth have been known to be the victims that bear the brunt during and after any kind of conflict, crisis and war all over.
It is conservatively estimated that 70 per cent of those killed in most conflicts today are women and children, who become especially vulnerable when law and order break down.
In some cases, young women at such periods, become vulnerable to rape and consequently get infected with sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Most of them never recover from the trauma of such incidents, which, to a large extent, translate to how they raise their own kids.
Some women who get pregnant in war and crisis-prone areas after rape and do not know who is responsible for such pregnancies, have to live with the product of such dastard acts. Some fall into serious depression subsequently.
Many women are left widowed and many children are orphaned. Women struggle to sustain livelihoods for their children after conflict, which is often times not easy on them.
Death of children and mothers during such situations further hamper growth of any nation as future leaders are being truncated in their prime and mothers, who produce these young lads, are also cut down.
The impact of conflict on women was recognised 18 years ago with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution called for measures including the presence of women at the peace table. Yet, women in war-torn countries remain mostly ignored, despite research showing that, where women are included, the likelihood of achieving peace is much higher.
Women’s level of mobility is also hampered during conflicts because of threats of violence or results of some forms of cultural restrictions.
Childhood is practically wasted, malnutrition becomes on the increase as household resources diminishe since funds are diverted away from social services and increase in food insecurity, fear or other physical obstacles prevent care givers from pursuing their livelihood activities.
Indeed there has never been a positive side to any conflict world over. Several businesses have been closed down or relocated from crisis-prone areas to perceived peaceful zones from conflict areas.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and among its most diverse with over 400 ethno linguist groups. The country, over the years, has been affected by a couple of conflicts based on overlapping ethnic, religious, political and regional divisions including conflicts over resources in the Niger-Delta.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) puts the figures of people living in the Internally Displaced Persons camps at 80 per cent in Borno and 20 per cent in other locations. Due to security challenges, women are forced to give birth at home most times. 43 newborn deaths from a total of 1,000 live births are worrisome. Perhaps, peaceful co-existence will reduce the concern to the barest minimum.
Since Nigeria transited to democracy in 1999, the huge expectations of Nigerian people for dividends of democracy have been squashed due to crisis and instability in the leading political parties. The struggle to control political parties has led to continuous distractions, so much that the people who should concentrate on governance devote much time to ensure their interest is safe guarded.
Most of these self-centered politicians pay youth to become their “political thugs”, causing mayhem in a bid to secure their interests while their own (politicians) children are in the best universities outside the country.
Political violence should be a source of worry for all well meaning Nigerians who want peace and progress for our dear country as we tilt towards 2019 general elections.
Political violence negates peaceful coexistence, law and order. In addition to security concerns, it militates against the consolidation of democracy and social existence. This in turn impacts on the social and economic well-being of the nation and creates imbalances in social relations.
Political violence brings complex set of events such as poverty, ethnic or religious grievances; it also represents a disturbance movement in political equilibrium and peaceful coexistence of the system.
Women are key drivers of the society. To shut them out and leave them suffer is to invite confusion and disorder to the society. Women are builders; children are leaders. They are both influential to any society or nation. The best time to mitigate the effects of crisis on women and children in Nigeria is now.
We must, as a nation, strive to protect our mothers and children by shelving acts that could lead to crisis during the upcoming general elections if we must grow and stand against other external aggression.
Every form of illegitimate and unauthorised use of force to effect decisions against the will or desires of other persons in the society is political violence and has its dire consequences on the nation. We must stop collective attacks within political communities against political regimes and their actors.
Ultimately, ending any form of political crisis once and for all in the country is the best bet to making life worth living for children and women in Nigeria.