NIGERIA BIAFRA WAR PART 22: What life looks like in the republic of Biafra
The Nigeria Biafra conflict vested a humanitarian emergency of epic proportions, millions of people (Civilians and soldiers) were flooding the main highway arteries between towns and villages fleeing the chaos.
Many traveled by foot, by truck, by car, barefoot with slippers in wheelbarrows, many in worn-out shoes. Some had walked so long their soles were blistered and bleeding. As hunger and thirst grew, so did despair, confusion, and desperation. Most were heading whatever direction the other was headed, propelled by the latest rumors of food and shelter spreading multitude like a virus. Refugees were on the move with no specific direction, anywhere, just away from the fighting. As they fled the war zones they became targets of the Nigerian Air Force. The refugees learned to travel nights and hide in the forest by day
The international relief agencies started responding to the growing humanitarian challenges quite early in the conflict by establishing food distribution centers and refugee camps. There were many Biafran refugee camps dotting the landscape, From Enugu in the northern to Owerri in the south, during the thirty-month conflict. Many held between a few hundred and a few thousand people. At the height of the war there were well over three thousand such centers and camps, a great number but woefully inadequate to the actual need.
These camps were often hastily constructed tent villages set up beside bombed churches, in football or sports arenas, or in open fields in the forest. They Uniformly lacked electricity, running water, or other comforts. Occasionally, the more established camps had sturdier shelters on the premises of abandoned schools or colleges or built near freshwater streams or little rivers. Those were few and very far between. Most had rows of mud huts and palm raffia roofs built hastily by the inhabitants themselves. They were occasionally fenced in by the international agencies, which places guards on the camp perimeter to monitor movement in and out of the area. The relief agencies often hoisted their Flags to indicate to the Nigerian Officers that they were in neutral zones that should be protected from assault. That did not keep the Nigerian troops from raiding these “safe havens” or even bombing them.
Life in the Camps varied in quality. Some of the better-organized camps provided water shelter food basic health care – mainly vaccinations for children against the most prevalent diseases and treatment of common bacterial infections and education. Other camps would only describe as deplorable epidemic-ridden graveyards. In these camps, the combination of poor sanitation, HIgh population density, and shortages of supplies created a bitter cocktail of despair giving rise to social pathologies and psychological traumas of all kinds- Violence, extortion, and physical and sexual abuse.
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