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Benue’s IDP Camp Faces Baby Boom: 200 New Births Every Month

Benue State, Nigeria – Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Benue State are facing severe hardships, with over 1.5 million people living in 17 camps due to ongoing conflicts with armed herdsmen. Despite these challenges, a significant rise in birth rates within the camps has raised concerns among health officials.

Some IDPs from the Mafa community have protested against relocation to Bush, citing worsening hunger in the camps. “Sleeping with our wives makes us happy and eases our pains,” said Anngu, an IDP and father of two. However, this has led to a surge in new births, further straining the limited resources.

For the Mafa, the act of intimacy with their spouses is rooted in a deep cultural belief that children are a blessing and source of joy, even in the direst circumstances. “Each child is a gift from the gods,” explains Tsamiya, an elder of the Mafa. “To deny new life is to deny hope itself.”

Recent findings from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that over 200 babies were born in the Ortese IDP camp in Guma LGA within a single month. This figure highlights the urgent need for improved family planning and healthcare services.

Mrs. Grace Wende, Executive Secretary of the Benue State Primary Health Care Board, expressed concern over the high birth rates. “The number of new births is quite high, and the government needs to do something about it. Many women are not utilizing the family planning products provided,” she said.

The IDPs face numerous challenges, including inadequate food, insufficient sleeping spaces, and limited access to healthcare. The high birth rates exacerbate these issues, leading to malnutrition and health complications among newborns. However, some IDPs have shown remarkable resilience and innovation.

In one camp, a group of women started a community garden using repurposed materials and traditional farming methods passed down through generations. “The garden is our link to our ancestral lands,” says Nadia, the garden’s founder. “It nourishes our bodies and souls.”

Health officials are calling for intensified advocacy and education on family planning, particularly targeting men who often resist these methods. “We need to create more awareness and ensure that both men and women understand the importance of family planning,” added Mrs. Wende.

Despite the hardships, many IDPs remain hopeful for the future. Amina, a young mother of two, dreams of returning home one day and opening a school. “Education is the key to breaking the cycle of displacement,” she says. “I want my children to have opportunities I never had.”

As Benue State grapples with the influx of IDPs and the rising birth rates in the camps, urgent action is needed to address the healthcare and nutritional needs of these vulnerable populations. The government, along with international organizations, must work together to provide sustainable solutions that respect the unique cultures, wisdom, and aspirations of the displaced people.