They have no idea of what happens in real life. That is because these children have become used to the makeshift condition they have been subjected to in the last four years.
They now consider their piteous and pathetic situation as normal since they have no other option than to resign themselves to squalor, live like animals and look up to each day as it comes with hope that it will be better. These are children displaced from their ancestral homes by unrelenting assaults that eisther killed their parents and loved ones or left most of them permanently incapacitated; leaving them to the cold hands of uncertainty and fate.
For so long, these children have been making ends meet with the provisions made available to them by the Benue State Government and the support it gets from well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations. According to official figures from the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, no fewer than two million IDPs have been held up in about 17 official and unofficial camps as well as host communities in Agatu, Makurdi, Logo, Guma, Gwer West, Kwande, Ukum, Katsina-Ala, Ado, Konshisha and Oju Local Government Areas of the state. Out of the number, a total of 792,578 are children, whose parents’ whereabouts remain unknown.
But as destitution in the various IDP camps has turned into normal living for the children, desperate appeals have also been made from the state government and other concerned agencies to get the children back to their homes with or without their parents in order to give them a better life outside the temporary camps. While these children and their parents eagerly await the restoration of normalcy in their communities to enable them return home, they have just spent another Christmas festivity in the camps, albeit in a state of despondency.
A notable feature among the displaced children was that even during the yuletide season, they have no idea about the good life that their counterparts outside the camp enjoy daily. Despite the challenges, most of them still cheerfully make do with the little that the Benue State Government was able to give them to make the Christmas celebration a pleasant experience for them.
While their age mates living with their parents enjoyed choice meals and visited many places of attraction during the just concluded Christmas, these children in the crowded and inhuman camps, struggled with the rations provided by the Benue State government through SEMA and a hand full of persons and groups who showed concern.
Ade Atom, a mother of two, who said she has been living in Abegena IDPs camp with her children for over two years now, describes life as being unfair to them and lamented the level of neglect they have been subjected by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Mrs. Atom said: “Before we were sacked from our village by our enemies, we used to go shopping for clothes and shoes for our children a few weeks to every Christmas.
“The money to make the purchases was never a problem because we used to make reasonable amount of money from our farm produce. On every Christmas day, we usually prepared chicken with other delicacies for our family members and neighbours after church service. But all that is now history. We now depend on the benevolence of others to survive. And as for the Christmas festivities, we lack the capacity to mark it for our children like we used to when we were living in our homes.
“The Benue State government is doing its best but the truth is that it cannot cope. The Federal Government cannot pretend that we are not here. Even if they try to forget us, they should not forget our children because they are Nigerian children who were sacked from their homes by herdsmen.”
On her part, Felicia Tar noted that “the children in IDPs camps are like a forgotten people during the Christmas celebrations because whatever comes from the state government and churches as well as other charitable organisations is not ever enough to go round for the large number of parents and children in the camps. “That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to put an end to the incessant attacks on our communities so that we can return to our ancestral homes and continue with our lives as normal human beings instead of living continually in camps and being given rations whenever it is available as beggars. “If that is not done the future of our children will remain bleak.
And no one knows what will become of them tomorrow. That is the more reason why we are appealing to the Federal Government not to forget that we are Nigerians and we also need help and assistance to survive,” Tar pleaded as she spoke to Arewa Voice.
As for Nicodemus Ayar, who claimed to be a father of seven, the experience in camp is not what any reasonable human being should be happy about because it is like living in prison with little or nothing to celebrate.
Ayar said: “It is not a good experience for us. The state government brings food for us monthly, but how far can that take us in a month? Our children are not living normal lives because life in the camp is nothing to write home about. We certainly cannot continue like this.
Our children want to return home and live a normal life like other children. The Federal Government gave us hope after we were displaced. They promised to rebuild our destroyed homes and ensure adequate security in our communities to enable us go home. But from all indications we have been forgotten by the Federal Government,” Ayar lamented.