The UN marks World Refugee Day on June 20th annually in order to bring global attention to the plight and suffering of children, women and men who flee their homes under threats of persecution, conflict and violence; and celebrates their perseverance, determination and resilience. In celebration, Doctors Health Initiative (DHI) seeks to create awareness on internal displacement in Nigeria.


The internally displaced person in Nigeria faces various challenges:

  • The almost non-existent government attention given to IDPs translates literally to total self-dependence. Feeding ranks amongst the greatest challenge IDPs face. They lack the financial means to feed themselves and depend on government handouts and donations from individuals, organizations and NGOs.
  • There is no guarantee of safety for IDPs in the camps. They are still at the risk of attacks from armed militia or armed groups. Where there is violence in the areas surrounding the camp, it may be difficult for aid workers to get relief materials to the camp.
  • Female IDPs suffer the risk of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Attacks may lead to abduction and rape of women and girls. Females may place themselves in positions to be exploited in a bid to escape unbearable living conditions. In some cases, the fear of stigmatization and ignorance has prevented rape victims from resorting to legal redress.
  • Exploitation and abuse from host communities and the government. They occasionally face animosity from the host communities. Within the camp, factions created along religious or tribal lines which do not encourage harmonious interactions may exist. Officials are wont to exploit the lackadaisical attitude of government and make profit off materials and funds made available for the care of IDPs.
  • The living conditions in IDP camps are pathetic. The IDPs live in makeshift and unsuitable shelter constructed from either wood, zinc, bamboo, polythene or palm fronds or a combination of these materials. Some take shelter in schools, government buildings and uncompleted buildings; and those who manage to flee with a fair amount of money resort to renting apartments. They may lack the financial ability to renew their rent upon expiration. The shelters usually offer little protection from the elements of the weather.  Large families are oftentimes cramped into small spaces. Makeshift toilets and bathrooms are the norm and where there are not available, the surrounding bushes become restrooms. Waste evacuation is non-existent. Diseases are rife.
  • IDPs lack access to quality healthcare. The unsanitary conditions at camps and lack of medical attention aggravates sicknesses, the spread of diseases and epidemics. Where pregnant women and babies are denied pre-natal and ante-natal care, it is not unusual to record deaths of pregnant women at childbirth. Very few camps have inadequately equipped clinics. IDPs in unofficial camps or who may be living with relatives have not been taken into consideration.
  • For the IDPs sheltered in official camps, their freedom of movement is restricted. There are no unauthorized visits to the camp. Understandably, this may be government’s means of putting a check on excesses in camp, still yet, the limitation hampers IDPs ability to sufficiently fend for themselves bearing in mind that government’s assistance barely goes far.
  • IDPs are not offered psychosocial support. Many of them have undergone severe emotional trauma or distress. Memories such as being nearly hacked to death, witnessing the killing of a family member, the unexplained disappearance of friends or family members or just the struggle to adjust to life in the cities where they lack social safety nets can take a psychological toll that requires professional medical attention.(Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
  • Families may be separated whilst fleeing. There is presently, no family tracing system in the country to link IDPs with family members who may have been abducted or missing. Unaccompanied children run the risk of becoming permanent orphans. Missing or abducted persons may never be accounted for.
  • IDPs lack documentation. Most barely escape the violence in their communities, leaving their possessions behind; some others have had to leave because their houses or villages were burned down along with all their property; and a few others have their means of identification seized, stolen or missing whilst fleeing. Not having a means of identification could affect the IDP’s chances of getting a job and other benefits.
  • For IDP children, education may be halted for the period they remain displaced. In camps where there has been an effort to provide education, makeshift schools are built; children depend on charity organizations or NGOs for books and learning materials; and the teaching standards cannot neither be evaluated nor enforced.

IDPs will sometimes resort to harmful coping mechanisms for survival. Child labour, early or forced marriage, prostitution, drug abuse, poor nutrition, family separation, petty theft become necessary to survive.



A lot of work needs to be done to tackle these challenges. Government has to play a decisive role in solving the internal displacement dilemma. It needs to firmly tackle the security challenges in the country. Doing so will guarantee that at least half of the displacement issues in Nigeria will be solved. The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other related agencies should take the lead in committing to understanding and employing early warning systems. These systems help to detect disasters. The benefit will be an elimination of the haphazard panic- infested solutions and instead strategic, co-ordinated measures taken by government. The formulation and employment of a line of action to help resettle IDPs and help them rebuild their lives is necessary. Government should work with stakeholders in employment, health, housing, education and other sectors to build a mechanism that makes it possible. Nutrition, healthcare, education and security at IDP camps nationwide are begging assessment and a genuine and conscientious effort to improve these conditions. A collaboration between government, NGOs and stakeholders to create awareness on the effects of harmful environmental practices will to an extent, help to curb environmental disasters in the country. The lack of media attention in Nigeria on internal displacement also downplays the magnitude of the problem. Heightened attention will increase awareness on the plight of IDPs and will force government to take some action and hopefully, give due attention to them. It will also increase support from well-meaning individuals and organizations.

With the staggering numbers and obviously growing menace of internal displacement, it is disconcerting that this issue is trivialized. These numbers are real. The persons affected are Nigerians and so are the challenges. Only a dedicated fight will solve the problem.

*This concludes the article


With donations from generous individuals and organizations, DHI has been organizing outreaches to internally displaced persons throughout the nation since 2008. We give foodstuff, essential materials and free health consultations/services during these outreaches. We are constantly in need of donations and volunteers. Would you please join us? Contact details: 0703 255 6691 or 0803 752 5616.  For donations – Access Bank, account no. 006 549 6649, account name – Doctors Health Initiative. Visit us at www.dhicares.blog to learn more about what we do.




**Ogonna Kanu, a DHI volunteer, writes from Lagos, Nigeria


A Day Volunteering with DHI for the Lagos IDPs

A Day Volunteering with DHI for the Lagos  IDPs
We were 17 volunteers from the Doctor’s health initiative and we were all from different parts of the country. Doctors Health Initiative is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to serving humanity with emphasis on women’s and family health. The outreach took place on the 3rd of November. We arrived at the camp at about 11:30am. We were met by 2 African ladies based in Germany who came to join the outreach and more than 100 individuals eager to participate in the medical     checkup we were giving out.


In less than an hour, we had set up and split up into different sections for the program to begin. There was the section for weight and height checks, blood pressure checks, consultation area with the doctors and finally, the make shift Pharmacy.

The event began with a speech given by one of our representatives on Anemia and the importance of checking for anaemia deficiency in child bearing. The women were very attentive and asked questions too.

The talk didn’t take too long. Within 45 minutes, the process had begun. I and Onyeka, a fellow volunteer were in charge of checking the weight and height of these women and children. The sight of these women was very disheartening; their children were so under weight.

Interviews were carried out with some of the women, they told us of how it has been difficult for them in the camp after leaving their homes for safety. They expressed their gratitude for all the help people show them and the care rendered to them by different organizations.

The kids had a hard time opening up to us, I tried to hug them and get them comfortable, all of which was to no avail. We had to get them balloons, it worked like magic. They smiled and easily complied to the process.

I was particularly fond of a 5 year old, Zara, she acted more mature than her age. She got her little siblings together to check their weight and height and helped get food for all 5 of them when it was being shared. She acted as a mother figure to them. It brought tears to my eyes. I could only imagine how much she had been through to make her assume such a high level of responsibility at such young age.

Soon after, we were joined by sisters of St. Louis who came with foodstuff for the occupants of the camp. The children were told to line up and food was shared

Some of us, volunteers, didn’t know what to expect going out for this outreach as it was our first time. We were so happy to have a first- hand encounter with these women, hear their stories and be of help to them.

Picture time, we brought out our phones and started to take pictures. The kids were so excited to take selfies, most of them seemed even fascinated by the ability to see themselves on the phones. It was another bonding experience for me, I got to hold them and make them smile. I felt so accomplished.

We wrapped up the outreach at about 3:45pm. The women thanked us for coming. The look of their faces was so fulfilling. The children gave us hugs when we were about to leave. And to think, they were afraid of us when we arrived! We got into our bus and they waved at us as we drove off.

Volunteering for the Doctor’s Health Initiative was a great opportunity for me. I have always had an interest in helping people and I would forever be grateful to have been a part of this outreach. Youths are encouraged to be of help in whatever way they can, these people have no-one to help them. The least we could do is volunteer; there is always a happy feeling after doing such a kind deed and not being paid for it. The feeling after is worth more than gold.

Yvonne Alorkha

#Walk4IDPs: From Idea to Reality

About five or so years ago, a group of seniors of *The Lagoon School came together and decided that they were going to change the world. They had meetings and discussed great ideas. I wasn’t there, mind you. I do, however, imagine an energy around them, sparking as the ideas were given wings as they left the realm of imagination and began their journey towards a possible reality. As they spoke, these ideas spread their fluttering wings and flew around them waiting for that one green light that would make them something more…something concrete. These girls called themselves The Environmental Committee. A year and a half ago, I accidentally almost did not became a member of this club. But that’s another story.

A year after its conception, the idea for a walkathon became one of the winged ideas to take the journey into reality. These girls decided that they were going to host a walkathon to engage the youths and others into cultivating a habit of standing up for what they believe in. Year after year after year, this idea kept getting passed on. As graduation bells rung, so was this idea being passed on to the following set. This winged idea stayed in the same spot for years…and then, it got to us: my set.

A few months prior, we woke up. We realized that we had done zero planning. So, what did we do? We rallied like we didn’t even know was possible. It was almost as if we were in a different dimension. Once again, an energy grew around us as we had meetings upon meetings until the final proposal was made.

The idea became something more…something concrete. It was simple. We planned to carry out a walkathon from our school, The Lagoon School, on the 9th of December, 2017 to create awareness of and raise funds for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across Nigeria. Many people don’t realize that it’s actually more than that. This walkathon is just a piece of the puzzle that we have constructed to indeed make the word a better place. The walkathon is item one on the much larger Save The Earth Campaign. However, that is a different story. The scary thing about the idea becoming more concrete is the fact that once it does become more concrete, it loses its wings. It was entirely up to us to make it a reality.

After drafting letters, asking for permission, seeking out possible sponsors and putting together a proposal that still makes me feel as tired as I was when I wrote it; everything stopped. Every single watt of electricity died down and every single idea that had survived lost its wings and fell flat to the ground and hid in between crevices. Our hearts skipped a beat. The one person that held the fate of this walkathon in her hands had pressed the pause button on a remote control that only she had access to. She gave us an ultimatum. My heart skipped another beat as I left the office to tell my fellow Environmental Committee club members what had happened during that meeting. There was silence.

With every word I spoke, I could see as eyes that were once bright with excitement and innovation became as dull as a layer of soot upon the shiniest diamond. We were afraid, but no one dared to say why. Then, I told them about the ultimatum. Our President was the first to speak, she said, “Well, we shall do this as individuals. It is too important to be left undone for yet another year. The IDPs are counting on us. We are doing this.” Then, everything came back to life.

In the end, everything went as planned. A small group of four people was carved out of the Environmental Committee to handle the planning of the walkathon. I was in direct contact with the school authority as well as with Doctors Health Initiative; Semilore George was in charge of the running of the club with Kene Onyenokwe as well as reaching out to potential sponsors. Vanessa Ariyibi kept people talking about the Walkathon online. Our first order of business was to partner up.

I had been working with Doctors Health Initiative for about a year and so, I suggested partnering up with them. Doctors Health Initiative (DHI) has changed my point of view about NGOs greatly. Now, I’m incredibly biased. I had always frowned upon NGOs and non-profits because I had always thought that they seemed so self-serving. Then, I accompanied DHI on one of their outreaches. Here was an NGO that is passionate about helping put the poor and underprivileged in our society by providing them with free and high quality health services among other things. So, naturally they were my first pick to partner up with. We took a vote and ended up with them. I remember telling Dr Nkechi Asogwa, the President of DHI, about the walkathon and how she didn’t even hesitate to express her willingness to collaborate with us. That meant a lot.

Then, the actual panning begun. We sought out information to create a proposal. We sent out letters to the DPO to ask for security coverage, got permission from the local government, sought out Pat Utomi for the opening remarks, created digital posters to be posted online, picked a date and time, decided on products to sell and future meeting dates. It is truly amazing that we managed to pull all this off. Mind you, we are about 13-17 years of age. Possibly the most stressful thing was sending out requests for sponsorship and donations. We talked to our uncles and aunties and others that we really didn’t know. We were all determined to raise as much funds as we could.


Then, the real task began: talking to the students of our school about the walkathon. It was truly a challenge because many of our schoolmates did not know a lot about internal displacement in Nigeria. To top it all off, exams were fast approaching and we knew that soon enough people would frown upon us doing extracurricular things during exam time. I think now it’s safe to say that we still did. The right amount, however. We still had to go round to individual classes and address their questions, collect their registration fees and so on. I’m still waiting for my report card to know whether I regret that or not.

Then, we decided to find other ways to publicize the events. I sent out about fifty emails while Semilore made phone calls. Even though not many people responded favorably, I like to think of the fact that for a moment in time they were thinking about our brothers and sisters form Northern Nigeria (the IDPs). That to me is enough. Let’s not forget that the amazing Adesua Wellington actually did post about the walkathon on her Instagram page.

One week to the walkathon and we realized that we weren’t entirely ready. It’s amazing that one meeting with Dr Nkechi was all we needed. We ran the whole day from start to finish and ironed out all the little details. I remember that when we finished that meeting and put up our banners in school all I could think about was the fact that we almost didn’t have this walkathon. What I know now is that when the circumstances do not favour your plans, you do not just abandon those plans. You create your own circumstances and execute your plans as well as you can.

It was the day before the walkathon and I couldn’t sleep. I had just finished putting together the names of all those who had registered and printed pages and pages of registration sheets. I hopped into bed and I could almost see the next day behind my eyelids. I could almost see the leaf green t-shirts and face caps and the sneaker prints in the sand. I woke up at 5:00AM to the sound of merciless raindrops hitting the roof of my house as though they had been challenged to a fight they were determined to win. It almost felt like they had been practicing for this fight and that day was the day they were going to showcase all their strengths. I thought I was dreaming. As we approached The Lagoon School, the rain had given up on winning the fight and just managed to throw a few punches here and there, but the sun was nowhere to be found. I checked. The grey clouds had invited some of their light blue friends, but only a few. As they stood in the sky, I strained to hear whether their conversation was about rain or shine. It was 7:00AM and the sun was playing hide and seek with an unknown third party.

7:30AM and Pat Utomi spoke to us. He spoke about leadership and courage and for the first time, I could acknowledge that this was no longer just an idea. It was a reality. 8:40AM and we began to walk. I stayed behind with the girls registering as I watched the crowd leave the green gates of The Lagoon School. My feet could not move me. The camera I held in my left hand had been abandoned for my eyes as I stared at the moving image in front of me trying to capture every last nanosecond so that I will never forget the moment I helped to make over three hundred people take one step towards those who had to take thousands of hurried steps in fear of their lives. With every step my eyes caught, I could see a thousand more frantic steps running away from what once was home. I could see little feet running as fast as they can, sweat dripping to the ground and gun shots firing mercilessly behind them. I could see some feet stop. I could see them still on the ground as sweat became blood. No camera could ever capture that image. The camera lenses would break in fear and the photographer would join in.

As we walked through Lekki, I saw faces of people just wondering what we were up to. I heard some people say “tourists” and others say “they must be church people.” I smiled and carried on. The crowd only seemed to get larger and it felt like I was walking on air. As I interviewed parents and teens, I got to hear about their thoughts on the walkathon. It was incredible. I saw the police officers directing traffic wholeheartedly and clearing the way for our safe passage. I saw the policemen with their eyes alert, looking out for any potential threats. I saw DHI volunteers making sure that no one was left behind. I saw my Environmental Committee girls, holding trash bags and yelling chants for the walkathon. I saw parents, fully geared and taking the opportunity to get some exercise in. I saw a lot. I also did not see a lot.

I did not see age discrimination. I did not see gender discrimination. I did not see social status. I did not see tribe. I did not see political ideology. I did not see level of education. For the first in my life, I saw one Nigeria. I saw one community taking progressive steps for the greater good…and there was peace. There was joy. There was happiness and there was tranquility. In government class, I learnt that Nigeria was never meant to be one nation. I learnt that our colonial masters joined us together for their own convenience. People have told me that One Nigeria can never exist because it never existed. Now, when I tell them that they are wrong, I will have perfect example to illustrate it with.

We didn’t just walk for the IDPs that Saturday morning. We unknowingly created something more. We brought different groups of people together and we did something great from start to finish. We created a perfect illustration that ONE NIGERIA is in fact a possibility. Take from this walkathon what you want but do know this; we are more similar than we are different, and we must continue to do things that bring us closer together rather than tear us further apart. Together, we are so powerful.

To the youths: think about it and know that you are never too young to make a difference. To the adults: don’t just complain about the youths, when presented the opportunity please support us like DHI, Pat Utomi, Mr. Oyewale Ariyibi and others did. If you cannot support our causes then you have no right to complain.

To our country: we believe in you and we are on our way to making you great. Just hold on. Generation Z is on the way.


– Written by Tolulope K. Olasewere, Volunteer DHI and Project Manager of The Environmental Committee’s Save The Earth Campaign

*A private all-girls primary and secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Little Love Notes

In March of 2017 till now, people from around the world took place in an initiative of DHI called The Little Love Notes Project. People were asked to submit their entries expressing that DHI’s love for the IDPs has reached their location in the world. This project was aimed at creating awareness of Internal Displacement not only in Nigeria but across the world.

We believe that the solution to most if not all our problems in the world today can be fixed if we all made sure to love one another and ourselves.

We will still accept entries to this project if you are really interested. Simply use the examples below to create your own Little Love Note and send it to any of our social media platforms,

Twitter: @dhi_nigeria

Instagram: DHI_Nigeria

E-mail: ttolasewere@yahoo.com

We urge you today to carry out an act of love ad kindness every day and to inspire people to do the same.

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-DHI Approved

Credits to the makers of these little love notes. Thank you for your support.

Benin Health Outreach


On the 22nd of February, 2017, Doctors Health Initiative organized a health outreach for the Internally Displaced Persons in the Benin Internally Displaced Persons camp. We provided free health services and skill acquisition opportunities to the Internally Displaced Persons, as well as donated clothes and other valuable items.

You can contact us via:
Twitter: @dhi_nigeria
Instagram: dhi_nigeria
Facebook: Doctors Health Initiative

Please enjoy the video and don’t forget to let us know what you think 🙂

From Tolu

Awoken  by a gush of wind
sleep shattered into countless pieces
time frozen
as if a spell has been cast and
all that exists is
me and
the idea of you,

The white and red bus propelled forward,
for hours on end
by a sort of magical force
perhaps by
the idea of you,

To our humble abode,
we arrived
making opinions as we go
settling in,
eyes wide
with hope
maybe of
the idea of you,

In the darkness, we lay
drenched in sweat
*Limax lights let out
eyes staring at the freckled ceiling
bathed in darkness, suddenly submerged in sleep,
the darkness displaced by a beaming ray of light
perhaps by
the idea of you,

the volunteer dreams of
leaf green t-shirts

A perfect fairytale,
most definitely,
the idea of you,
our family from the North.


*Limax – the guest house we stayed in during the outreach

From Ella

It was a wonderful experience going to the Internally Displaced Persons camp with the volunteers of Doctors Health Initiative. It was a two day visit, so we left in the morning on Thursday  at about 9:00am to the camp. When we got there we met the person in charge (Pastor Evelyn) and then dispersed with our different teams to begin work.




While I was put in the hospitality team they had other teams such as the educational team, medical team and the editorial team. They worked as their names implies. I left with my team mates to meet the women who we were to teach.




Firstly,  we interviewed them for a questionnaire which was meant to help us find out if any vocational training they’ve already received has been effective. When we were done with the questionnaire we started getting set to teach them.  Firstly how to mix and fry *puff puff and **chin chin, which we did.While my team mates talked I was taking down the recipes for them so they have a guide to follow when they decide to do it on their own.

The next day which was Friday we had an excursion to the ***Oba of Benin’s palace. Though we didn’t get to meet him it was still a worthwhile trip. We were shown some paintings and historic write ups. after which we headed for the Internally Displaced Persons Camp. When we got there on the second day Pastor Evelyn took us around and showed us were the women and children stay and also the classrooms built by the ex-governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomole….though it hasn’t been commissioned yet.


After that we got to work with our respective teams. My teammates and I taught the women to bake cakes and also gave them a chance to practice it right there – what we had taught them the previous day, that is. So, after we mixed the cake batter and started baking it we selected some women to mix the puff puff and the chin chin which they did really well showing that they actually paid attention to what we had taught. We had to leave early on this particular day so after the cake had baked,  they took the puff puff and chin chin mixture home to fry by themselves.We trusted they’ll be able to do it because they were doing so well already and from the look on the faces of the women we could tell they were sincerely happy to have someone teach them things they can do with their hands.




Like I said at the beginning; it was a wonderful experience…from the other volunteers I worked with to the excursion to the women and to the work itself! Everything was a huge success and I’d love to do it again some other time.


                          Written by Abung Emmanuella

                             Volunteer, DHI

*A Nigerian snack which some may refer to doughnut holes

**A fried Nigerian snack

From Dr. Chizaram

My Benin *IDP Camp Health Outreach experience was the most intense, humbling, satisfactory and eye-opening experience I have ever been through. Being a pharmacist and public health practitioner, you read these things in articles, papers, blogs and even get some clips on TV some times, but nothing prepares you for the front stage and on site feeling.



You go through a range of emotions all at the same time. I am very glad I was a part of  this trip and worked with some of the most inspiring people I have met. We come from different cultures and backgrounds but with a common goal of bringing love, hope, help and encouragement to this population of people in desperate need of it.



I learnt early in life that the world is in serious need of doses of love and kindness, and i am glad I got to share my fair bit.
Amidst all experiences, comes the pleasant and not so pleasant but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. My most inspiring part of the trip will be having among us young ones, who traded in their possible fun time out with friends and possibly more to come make a difference and lend a helping hand. It gives you faith that maybe their is still hope for genuine love and sacrifice in the midst of our warring world.
While on the field, I only just wished we had enough resources and medications to administer to every single case presented by a patient.

Truly, I might never find the best words to capture the experience but I am very grateful I had such opportunity and I look forward to doing more of such works.


Thank you.

*Internally Displaced Persons

Written  by Dr. Chizaram

Volunteer, DHI

From Grace

About the Outreach
Being at this community service and serving at the *IDP camp is one of the best things I’ve experienced in life. I can barely describe the feeling. It was inspiring, fulfilling and   satisfying. I have never really experienced the joy that comes from giving your self to the service of others until I came here. The most beautiful thing was seeing the radiating smiles on the faces of the IDPs…no feeling beats that!!!
Knowing that the chances that these people have to repay you is almost nonexistent makes it more awesome.
I was humbled when I saw these people. Even with all they’ve been through still radiating with a lot of faith and hope in their eyes. It gave me a new sense of gratitude. I saw that I had more than enough reasons to be thankful and joyful.
I am grateful to God for the opportunity to give myself and my time to the service of those most in need. You don’t need to have all the wealth in the world to make a difference! Because the most appreciated thing in life are not even things that money can buy. It could just be a smile, your time or a word of encouragement.
‘Never say there’s nothing that you can do to make a difference because there’s a lot out there that needs to be done.’
About the Team
The **DHI 2017 team is an amazing team which consist of individuals with beautiful souls. When I met with the team members from ***Lagos, I felt a little bit odd because I thought all the team members knew themselves before coming because the bond, freedom and unity was deep. Little did I know that most of the team members were just meeting each other for the very first time. It was beautiful to see such communion, love and dedication among people that barely knew each other. I was amazed and humbled when I realized that most of the team members were meeting for the very first time. I became more open and began to also bond with my team members.
Working together with joy and happiness added more beauty ad joy to the various task being carried out.
 I can say that it was indeed an awesome and jaw-dropping experience. Looking forward to working with the DHI team in service projects to come. You guys are the real deal!!!
* Internally Displaced Persons
**Doctors Health Initiative
***A city in Nigeria, West Africa
Written by Grace A.
Volunteer, DHI.