Health Problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria

Health Problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria

An Internally Displaced Person is a person who was forced to flee his/her home or place of habitual residence in order to escape natural disasters (such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts) or human-made disasters (such as war, genocide, terrorism, insurgency, persecution, communal clashes, etc.)

According to a report released by the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] a few months ago, there are more than 3 million Internally Displaced Persons who are located across various IDP camps in Nigeria, with a whopping 1.9 million in Northeastern Nigeria alone. [1]

The reason for the huge figure could be associated with recent disasters in the country, including Boko Haram and Fulani attacks, communal violence between Christians and Muslims, political violence, and flooding in Nigeria.

That said, below are some of the common health problems identified among IDPs in Nigeria – 

Health Problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria

1. Fever

Fever is a symptom of an underlying condition characterized by extremely high body temperature, one of the body’s natural ways of responding to infections. 

A person is considered to have a fever when his/her body temperature is greater than the normal body temperature range of 36 – 37-degree centigrade or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Common fever symptoms include sweating, shivering, muscle aches, reduced appetite, dehydration, lethargy, fussiness, sore throat, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

Although there are several factors that can trigger elevated body temperature, the leading ones include – infections, teething (in babies), blood clots, food poisoning, hormone disorders, hard drugs (such as cocaine), vaccines, inflammatory bowel disease, to name but a few.

2. Malaria 

Malaria is yet another one of the numerous health problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria. 

This is a life-threatening disease caused by a parasite called ‘plasmodium’ and is transmitted to humans through the bites of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Malaria in Nigeria is a challenge, much less of an IDP camp in Nigeria. Report shows that it is responsible for thousands of deaths not just in IDP camps nationwide but in the country at large.

Mild malaria is usually accompanied by the following symptoms – cold sensation, shivering, fever, headaches, vomiting, seizures, nausea, muscle pain, fatigue and sweats while severe one can come with fever, impaired consciousness, severe cough, multiple convulsions, chest pain, deep breathing, abnormal bleeding, etc.

Malaria if not diagnosed or treated quickly, can be fatal, especially in young children, older adults, pregnant women and unborn kids. Below are some of the malaria complications you need to know:

  • Anemia – a condition where the red blood cells are not able to transport the required amount of oxygen to the body’s muscles and organs, which could make you faint, feel weak or drowsy.
  • Cerebral malaria – a disease that causes the brain to swell, ultimately results in permanent brain damage or coma.
  • Shock – a sudden drop in blood pressure.
  • Pulmonary edema – excess accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
  • Hypoglycemia – extremely low blood sugar.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Pregnancy-related complications, such as Premature birth, Extremely low birth weight, Stillbirth, Miscarriage, Maternal death, etc.

3. Acute Respiratory infection

Acute Respiratory infection is a serious, contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, pharynx, larynx and bronchi) that inhibits normal breathing function. 

Common symptoms include but not limited to– Fever, fatigue, headache, wheezing, congestion, runny nose, cough, and sore throat.

Basically, this infection targets the ‘breathing’ of its victims, meaning that it can be deadly when not treated as and when due. 

It usually starts from the nose, trachea or lungs, then after a while spread to other parts of the respiratory system to trigger serious complications, including declined consciousness, extremely low blood oxygen level, difficulty breathing, and the host of others.

While virtually anyone can develop Acute Respiratory infection, children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems are considered to be more prone as their system is weaker to resist the infection.  

In fact, reports show that ARI is one of the common causes of illness and death among children under five years of age.

Want to know the major reasons why Internally Displaced persons in Nigeria develop Acute Respiratory infection?

The leading factors include – 

  • Certain viruses, e.g. rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, human metapneumovirus,
  • Bacteria, e.g. gonorrhea, chlamydia, diphtheria, pneumococcus, 
  • Low humidity and indoor heating due to age-long overcrowding
  • Weakened immune system

It is a communicable diseases, and with the level of overcrowding in IDP camps, it is easy to see why Acute respiratory infection is among the health problems of IDPs in Nigeria.

4. Malnutrition 

Malnutrition simply means getting too little or too much of certain nutrients. If this persists for a longer period, it can trigger serious health conditions, including weight loss, poor energy levels, swollen legs, distended abdomen, kwashiorkor, scurvy, permanent problems with physical and mental development, etc.

Since most IDPs who abandoned their homes left everything behind (including food, clothing and shelter), a number of them are being poorly fed and are dying of malnutrition and other diseases. [2]

In fact, recent reports show that malnutrition is among the common reasons for the death of children below age 5 in most camps. 

For instance, reported in August 2018 that over 30 children died in one of the camps in less than two weeks, as a result of malnutrition while some other kids were left battling with series of life-threatening diseases.

Apart from low food intake, some other known causes of malnutrition include – inadequate breastfeeding, certain mental health problems (such as dementia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia), certain digestive disorders (e.g. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), celiac disease, excess alcohol intake.

Health Problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria

5. Post-traumatic stress disorders 

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that develops in a person who recently witnessed a traumatic or shocking event, such as rape, loss of a loved one, childhood neglect, terrorist attack, serious accident, natural disaster, etc. It is one of the most common mental health problems in Nigeria.

Since most IDPs had previously witnessed a terrifying event in the past, they may end up developing this disorder and thus affecting their physical, social, mental and overall wellbeing. 

Some of the commonly-experienced PSTD symptoms include – Difficulty concentrating, easily frightened, anxiety, lack of interest in activities that were pleasurable before, feeling detached from others, difficulty sleeping, fearful thoughts, nightmares, depression.

6. Depression

When it comes to health problems of internally displaced persons in Nigeria, depression is a subject matter that can never be overemphasized. 

This is major because a number of people in these camps are faced with depression, due to one reason or the other.

The plain truth is that no one will be happy living all he/she has laboured for in his entire life behind because of an emergency (communal clash, insurgency, war, etc.). When such happens, the persons in question tend to overthink, which may further result in depression.

Again, many IDPs suffer depression due to myriads of issues they are faced with at the camp. This includes poor feeding, lack of access to good water, forced labours, indiscriminate killing, to name but a few.

7. Sexual harassment, Rape and Unwanted pregnancies

Despite the fact that the people in IDP camps fled there to escape certain ugly incidents at their shores, it is very unfortunate that many of the women and young girls amidst them are often forced into sexual related issues, including rape, harassment and unwanted pregnancies.

To buttress this, it might interest you to know that Amnesty International reported a few months ago that Nigerian soldiers and civilian JTF members often rape women and young girls in different IDP camps in exchange for food.

This is really an issue of great concern as the authorities that ought to protect these ‘poor’ folks are the one taking advantage of them all in the name of humanitarian service.  [3] [4]


  • Indiscriminate killings
  • Overcrowding
  • Insecurity
  • Abduction of children to become fighters and sex slaves
  • Forced labours
  • Lack of access to education, clean water, and other basic amenities 


Below are some practical ways to solve health (and non-health) problems of internally displaced persons in Nigeria:

  • The government should tackle and find a lasting solution to the major root causes of wars and insurgencies.
  • Proper vaccination should be supplied to all the IDP camps in the nation.
  • The government should hire related experts and devise means through which indoor air pollution can be minimized to the barest minimum in the camps.
  • The government should ensure that enough funds are allocated to each IDP camp and that balanced diet (balanced levels of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.) is served to the inmates daily.
  • Psychology first aid should be offered to internally displaced persons with significant symptoms of depression or other psychological issues.
  • Regular psychiatric services should be delivered on a routine to IDP camps.
  • The national resources, especially human and financial, should be deployed to meet the needs of IDPs rather than waiting for the international community to take the lead.
  • The Nigerian government, through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relevant agencies, should ensure that all the IDPs are well funded and regulated.
  • All IDP camps should be renovated and updated with the necessary tools and equipment that will make life easier for the potential inmates.
  • The government should ensure maximum protection within and outside all the IDP camps throughout the nation. 
  • The government should ensure decent accommodation so as to prevent overcrowding, which could expose the IDPs to infectious diseases.
  • Adequate water, sanitation and feeding should be provided in all the IDP camps nationwide to shield the inmates against malnutrition, and other serious health conditions.
  • The government and NGOs should organize skill acquisition programmes for the IDPs, so they can also start their own business.
  • The government and Non-Government organizations should establish schools that will be targeted at only the children in IDP camps.
  • There should be dedicated primary healthcare centre in the IDP camps so that the inmates can easily get preventive, promotive and curative services.
  • The government should supply enough ambulances to the camps so that it can be used to deal with medical emergencies.
  • The government should engage in prompt integration and resettlement of IDPs as quickly as they possibly can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *