Life in the Ortese Camp, a refuge for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benue State, Nigeria, is slowly but surely improving. Because of UNICEF’s integrated support, the IDPs now have easier access to essential services.
Situated in the heart of Guma Local Government Area, the Ortese Camp is filled to capacity with over 16,500 people who have sought refuge following continuous attacks by armed herdsmen that have forced them out of their homes. Originally intended as a temporary shelter, the camp has now transformed into a permanent residence for thousands of families as a result of the continuous instability in the area.
Among the displaced is twelve-year-old Faith Veor, who, along with her mother and brother, sought refuge at the camp three years ago after experiencing the traumatic effects of the attacks. At a young age, Faith’s world was shattered, leaving her to struggle with fear and depression. Over time, her spirit was lifted when security personnel arrived at the camp and basic services became available.
“When we were forced to leave our home and settle in the camp, we lost everything, I stopped attending school and frequently became ill, causing a lot of worries for my mother. Having lost my father, she feared losing me too.”
At first, the Guma Camp was lacking in essential facilities. However, through funding from UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the State Ministry of Health, a hospital was built, saving countless lives, particularly those of children and women. Additionally, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided WASH facilities, ensuring that women and girls have access to dignified sanitary facilities.
Despite all of these developments, Faith and other girls in the IDP camp continue to endure various forms of gender-related violence. For fear of being violated, they can’t afford the luxury of sleeping with both eyes closed.
Recently, UNICEF, in collaboration with JASPI and the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (BERWASSA), provided psychosocial support materials, including teaching aids, to enhance the emotional well-being of the IDPs. Children like Faith were able to once again experience the joy of playing football after a long time through the intervention of UNICEF, with support from JASPI. The football and volleyball pitches were renovated, and new nets and balls were provided.
“With support from various development agencies like UNICEF, the Ortese IDPs now have access to regular schooling, healthcare services, and trucked water, there is a glimmer of hope in the camp, with 1,700 school-aged children resuming school after months of interruption due to the armed conflicts.”
In the midst of the many challenges faced by the displaced individuals in the Ortese Camp, there is an unfading feeling of hope. Many people find solace within its confines, holding onto the belief that things will get better. Mrs Juliet Chiluwe, Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Enugu, highlighted the importance of upholding international human rights standards and the commitment to leave no one behind, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. She emphasised UNICEF’s ongoing collaboration with partners to ensure that children and women have access to essential services and are able to reclaim their rights.