STILL smarting from the anguish occasioned by ravaging flood, thousands of the victims taking refuge in relief camps spread across affected states now have another possible life-threatening scourge to contend with.
Indiscriminate unprotected sexual intercourse among the Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) is reported to have triggered fears of possible further spread of the deadly Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) in the camps.
There are claims and counter-claims of some of the victims and randy officials deploying different techniques to lure the opposite sex to satisfy their sexual appetite.
Cases of rape, especially in Benue state, have also been reported in a number of camps, prompting the authorities to issue advisory warnings to the displaced persons.
One of our correspondents discovered that palpable fear had gripped the people of Benue because of the reported rape of some displaced persons in camps.
Benue ranks first on chart of HIV/AIDS states with over 600,000 living with the deadly disease as of 2011.
Many residents were scared that the state could be sitting on a keg of gun powder if the authorities delayed in taking proactive measures. According to the Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof John Idoko, about 1,000 new cases of HIV infections are discovered daily in the country, which has the second highest HIV/AIDS burden after South Africa with 4.1 prevalence rate.
The exact number of those taking refuge in the camps is still uncertain because of the continued rise in their number as the disaster persists.
The IDPs are those registered at the camps by emergency and rescue officers, meaning the affected people are generally more than the registered IDPs in camps.
Worse-hit by the flood are Kogi, Anambra, Rivers, Adamawa, Plateau, Bayelsa, Delta and Benue states.
But official statistics obtained on Friday from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) that there are 46,030 IDP in seven local government areas in Adamawa State, Taraba has 23,205 in seven LGAs and Benue 19,505 in six LGAs.
According to NEMA, of the 623,690 displaced persons from 344 communities of nine local government councils in Kogi, 50,493 are being accommodated in 87 camps in the state.
In Delta state, the agency said there are 28,764 registered IDPs in 11 camps in 14 LGAs, while at least 11 pregnant women among the victims had so far delivered in the camps.
In Bayelsa, there are at least 35, 126 IDPs from six local governments in various camps; Rivers has 19,237 from four local governments, while NEMA registered 24, 721 IDPs in 21 camps in six LGAs in Anambra state.
Professor Abraham Orkuga Malu, provost of Benue state University Teaching Hospital had before the rape incident raised the alarm of outbreak of diseases ranging from skin to sexuality transmitted diseases and its attendant efforts on the socio economic activities of the state.
A native of the state, who gave his name as Terkura Aver, claimed that the people were more at risk of the dreaded disease due to the indiscriminate and unprotected sex going on in the camps.
“There is no doubt that the state will soon explode with various kinds of diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases, especially the dreaded HIV/AIDS. If you are not a stranger in this town, you will know the prevalent rate of this deadly disease in the state now with the camps and the raping issue we are in for trouble.
“You should also expect a population explosion as a result of this ugly development. It is true that the younger ones are flirting around in the camps, so also the married ones you cannot control it”, he said.
Apart from some miscreants, who engaged raping ladies in the camps, some government officials allegedly indulged in illicit affairs with even married women.
It was further alleged that some officials deliberately used food items as a bait to lure female victims, particularly married women who needed more food stuffs to cater for their households.
The officials, according to the source, are said to adopt high-tech strategies in the course of their sexual escapades, which include giving out their phone numbers to unsuspecting displaced ladies.
“The ladies are, in turn, given preferential treatment,” the source claimed.
In all visited camps were general complaints of inadequate feeding by the flood victims.
For instance, at the Wurukum camp, one James, who pleaded not to have his second name in print said, “most of the food stuffs supplied to our camp were not given to us a few days ago. A baker brought some loaves of bread in a big vehicle, but they were not served to us. Yet the following day, the store had become empty. There was nothing left.”
Experts say the HIV epidemic in the country is complex and varies widely by region.
In some states, the epidemic is more concentrated and driven by high-risk behaviours, while other states have more generalized epidemics that are sustained primarily by multiple sexual partnerships in the general population.
For instance, in Oyo State, HIV prevalence stands at 3.0 per cent, as Dr Olubunmi Ayinde, who is the state AIDS Programme coordinator stated that no fewer than 3,257 individuals in the state tested positive to HIV in the last half of 2012 as compared to 1925 in year 2011.
Edo flood victims
Meanwhile, the Edo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) has said the Department of Disease Control and the state Ministry of Health were already doing a lot to deal with some of identified health challenges facing IDPS in the state.
The SACA Project Manager, Hajia Marietu Binkola, said the agency was putting together a programme that would take care of the people’s sexual health.
The clarification came against the background of indications that the flood displaced persons in various camps in the state were in the throes of imminent and potential deadly epidemic going by the findings of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Edo Hospitals Management Board.
There also concerns about the sexual health of the flood victims, especially over a possible increase and spread of venereal diseases as well as HIV.
The fears of the two bodies in respect to the health conditions of the displaced persons came on the heels of their findings during separate visits to the camps.
President of the NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele said on Wednesday that preliminary findings from the NMA assessment tour of some of the flood ravaged communities and states including Edo showed that in most of the communities visited there was poor waste disposal and inadequate toilet facilities while the underground wells, boreholes and surface water which are the sources of water in the flood ravaged communities, have been polluted, with attendant risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid, Gastro-enteritis.
The NMA said already there were outbreaks of diarrhoea with reported deaths of some of the displaced persons in some of the camps visited.