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Government Not Protecting Displaced Persons From Abuses – Human Rights Watch

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The Nigerian government is not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls from sexual abuse and exploitation from officials in charge of Internally Displaced Persons camps across the Northeast region of the country.

This was contained in a report released on Monday by the Human Rights Watch, HRW, one of the international Non-Governmental Organisations currently rendering humanitarian assistance in the insurgency ravaged region.

The report stated that government officials and other authorities including, camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers, have raped and sexually exploited women and girls residing in the IDP camps, adding that the government has done nothing to ensure that the victims have access to their basic rights and services, or to sanction the abusers.

Mausi Segun, a Senior Nigeria Researcher at HRW said: “It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram.

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

In late July, 2016, HRW said it documented sexual abuse, 43 cases of rape and sexual exploitation of women and girls living in seven IDP camps in Maiduguri.

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The group reported that “Four of the victims (said) that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.”

“Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents,” it added.

Quoting another report by a Nigerian research organization, NOI polls in July this year, the HRW said that “66 percent of 400 displaced people in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states said that camp officials sexually abuse the displaced women and girls.”

On why these cases of sexual abuses were not being reported by the victims, HRW stated that they “feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse.”

The group narrated the story of a 17-year-old girl who just fled from Dikwa and was staying in an IDP camp in Maiduguri, and how a policeman had approached her for “friendship”

“One day he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant,” the girl said.

“When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

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HRW said that “Irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents.

“In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women,” reported the human rights group.

“A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months laterwhen she told him she was pregnant.”

The ugly development had resulted in a surge in cases of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, in the camps.

“A medical health worker in one of the camps, which has 10,000 residents, said that the number of people requiring treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has risen sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016,” says HRW.

“The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.”

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency, BOSEMA, has direct responsibility for distributing aid, including food, medicine, clothes, and bedding, as well as managing the camps, while the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, supplies raw food and other materials for internally displaced people to the state agency under a memorandum of understanding.

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The Boko Haram conflict has led to more than 10,000 civilian deaths since 2009; the abductions of at least 2,000 people, mostly women and children and large groups of students, including from Chibok and Damasak; the forced recruitment of hundreds of men; and the displacement of about 2.5 million people in northeast Nigeria.

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