On Saturday, 26 August 2017 staff of International Medical Aid Corp, a non-governmental organisation that has been supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Gubio IDP camp in Borno were attacked by IDPs protesting the high level of starvation in the camp. While the camp residents understood the aid workers were not responsible for the rations they received, frustration, desperation and despair moved them to attack the people they could see as proxies for the Nigerian government whom they couldn’t reach.
At the end of the attack, five Lexus Jeeps were destroyed and humanitarian activities were suspended by humanitarian organisations as a result of the attack. However, the saving grace was that no life was lost. But this was not the case on Thursday 1 March 2018 when the “technically defeated” Boko Haram terrorists launched a violent attack on a military barracks in Rann. At the end of the attack, some United Nations aid workers and some soldiers were killed while scores suffered various degree of injuries.
This development led the UN and the Medical Sans Frontiers (MSF) to suspend humanitarian activities in Rann. As much as the long-term effect of this withdrawal as seen in the Gubio case was succinctly analysed, that it is happening less than ten months after shows we are a nation that refuses to learn from the past.
It’s unbelievable that individuals that have given their all to provide humanitarian service free of charge are being attacked in the course of their duty. The immediate suspension of humanitarian activities in the camp will cause untoward hardship in these disadvantaged communities, but we also cannot blame the organisations for taking such decisions to protect their staff considering the fact that we have failed to do so.
The attacks on aid workers in Gubio should have been an eye-opener to the government that attacks on humanitarian workers are imminent in a volatile region as the Boko Haram ravaged North East and this should have been prevented considering the positive impact these selfless individuals have in IDP camps, where their services and skills are sorely needed.