Since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2002 in Nigeria, one million people may have been displaced, according to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix was launched in Nigeria in July 2014. As of December 23, it identified a total of 389,281 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in five states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) recorded another 522,523 IDPs in Borno and the states of Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and Zamfara bringing the total number of registered IDPs to around 912,000. This figure could grow, says IOM, with implications for Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker said, “We now have irrefutable data on the impact of this crisis on Nigerians and are advocating for more effective humanitarian measures.”
Image credit: European Commission DG ECHO
Lack of infrastructure, such as clean water and sanitation, for those displaced increases the likelihood of epidemics and large-scale deaths. Scarce resources will come under increased strain with large-scale migration, both in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Rural economies are also affected as land is left behind.
Another major concern is the rise of jihadism in the region. Nnamdi Obasi, a senior analyst for Nigeria at the International Crisis Group, is particularly concerned about the impact on large numbers of displaced children: “Schools are shut down. And displacement can lead to a rising crime rate or joining Boko Haram if they see it as the only winning option.”
The group forbids Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. The name ‘Boko Haram’ means ‘Western education is forbidden’, and was first used locally to describe the militant Islamist group based in northeast Nigeria, whose official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad ("People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad").
The impact is particularly severe for women and girls, in terms of gender-based violence, education and economic rights – as signaled by the kidnapping of over 200 school girls in 2014.