We Now Pick Grains From The Market To Eat – Niger IDPs
Written by MaryGift Sunday on August 24, 2021
“There is not enough food for us. In fact, for two months now, we have not gotten food from the government or anybody. So what I and my children do is to go to the market to pick the grains that fall on the ground when it is being measured for the customer.
“We gather the grains with the sand and when we get home, we separate the sand from the grains and still separate which grain from each other. Then we cook the one we can cook,” Rayila Bitrus, a 30-year-old Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Kuta IDP camp, told reporters.
With over 2,000 IDPs from communities bedevilled with insecurity and banditry living in two of the IDP camps in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, feeding has become a big task to them.
Displaced from the luxury of their homes, these victims, who once boasted of bountiful food, who own farms where they feed people and make their livelihood now have to rely on handouts from people and donations from the government and well-meaning individuals.
But these foods, when donated, are usually not enough for the large group of people in the camp and are exhausted within a few days.
With the inability to get steady work but determined to feed their family, most of the women and children in the IDP camps, like Rayila, have resorted to going to the market to pick grains from the ground to get food to eat daily.
According to Rayila, the grains they get from the Kuta market are mostly rice, millet, corn and beans, “Some days, we get two to three cups while on other days, we get about five cups. This is because we are not the only ones who go to the market for the picking. That is what we have resorted to doing now because we are tired of begging for food to eat.”
For Rayila, when they get rice and beans, they cook it together while the corn and millet are saved until it is much to be used for pap or sometimes, the corn is ground for tuwo.
The story is the same for Musa Abdul who said that he used to get menial jobs when he first arrived at the camp but getting these jobs gets more scarce each day but he often gets to carry loads for people who buy goods in the market.
“When I go to the market, I go with my children because I noticed that when grains are measured for people, a lot falls on the ground and I also notice that a lot of our people here go to the market and pack this food that falls on the ground.
“My children are the ones who pick the grains on the ground. They take it home to their mother who separates the sand from the grains and we manage it for the time it lasts. The days I don’t get jobs, only my children go to the market to pick food.”
Nuhu Hassana explained that they have to go to the market early to get a promising space which is usually at the front of a seller whom they know may attract customers.
“Once you are there, that space is yours. So any customer that comes, we stay and watch and after filling the bag of the customer, we start packing the ones that fall on the ground.”
She said that that is what they rely on because food is very scarce in the IDP camp and it has become every family to carter for themselves.
A visit to the Kuta market revealed that the IDPs were saying the truth. Speaking with reporters, a trader, Nuhu Musa, who sells beans, rice and millet, explained that it is sad seeing women sweeping the ground to enable them to get some food that they can take home.
“If you come new to the market, you may feel that they are trying to keep the market clean when they start sweeping the ground after a customer has gone.
“But they are not cleaning the market. They are sweeping to gather the food that fell on the ground. They will pack it in the bags they bring and take it home. They come as early as 8 am and leave at 2 pm or 3 pm.”
Reporters, who visited the market, saw some women sweeping the floor after a customer had brought her goods and left.
‘We are hearing these complaints about the first time’
The Director-General of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), Ibrahim Inga, said that the government is not aware of the scarcity of food in the camp where the IDPs stated.
He also said that the government has been trying when it comes to feeding the IDPs saying those donor agencies also come to give them food.
“All these donors who come to the state pass through the government and the government is having so much in its hands. The government has done wonderfully well as far as the issue of IDPs camp is concerned in Niger state.
“Kuta is not the only local government that is affected by this banditry activity, we have about nine local governments at a point that the situation is hostile and the IDP camps were virtually everywhere.
“If you look at the quantum of the amount of money being expended in providing security, food items, medication, it is on the high side and that is why the Governor had called on kind individuals to come in for support and if we can have support from individuals, then the IDPs cannot complain of not having food.
“The governor had made it specifically clear that the state cannot do it all alone, that we need kind-hearted individuals to come in and help us. I don’t think there is anything to complain about.
“That they have no food is a complaint that I am hearing for the first time and I will verify it and ensure what is right is done,” he said.
However, the Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area, Suleiman Chukumba, said he was aware of the IDPs’ challenges.
“I know the challenges we are facing and what we are doing to help with these challenges. And I know what we are doing to address the problems of the displaced people.
“I will not say that there won’t be complaints because this issue of armed banditry and people becoming displaced has been for a long time, it has been 7 to 8 years.
“Although we have been doing our best if some of them are coming to complain a little, it is not something I will wave off because we have been facing this problem for a long time and we have been helping them the best way we can. Seven years is not seven days and I am sure that there would be complaints from them.”
Chukumba appealed for more interventions from individuals and organizations to help assuage the challenges of the IDPs in Shiroro.
Source: The Nation