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Nigeria: Red Cross aids victims of fresh intercommunal fighting

20-09-2001 News Release 01/37

Some 50,000 people fled their homes after fighting erupted between Christians and Muslims in Jos, in central Nigeria, on 7 September. Most sought refuge in military bases, police stations, churches, schools and even the city's airport.

Clashes, which intensified following reports of the attacks carried out last week in the United States, continued until 12 September despite intervention by the armed forces and a strict curfew (4p.m. to 7 a.m.). The fighting left many injured or dead, with some sources close to the government reporting 500 dead. The Red Cross counted 928 people injured. Hundreds of vehicles were set alight and some neighbourhoods were completely destroyed.

Aided by a regional coordinator and volunteers from Benue, Kaduna and Bauchi, the local branch of the Nigerian Red Cross Society swung into action when the fighting continued into a second day, taking the injured to hospital and giving basic medical care to displaced people from both communities. The city's authorities have supported the Red Cross in its work by making a 20-fold increase in their annual contribution to the branch and placing at its disposal a vehicle, fuel and food for distribution to the neediest victims.

The ICRC initially responded by sending enough emergency medical supplies to treat some 2,000 injured people. A delegate went to the scene to provide logistical support for the work in progress, assess security conditions and, above all, draw up a plan to meet any needs that had not been covered by action already taken by the authorities or other humanitarian organizations. By the end of last week, several thousand people had returned to their homes while those whose homes had been destroyed stayed wherever they could. Many others left for other parts of the country.

On 18 September, the ICRC began distributing relief in conjunction with the Nigerian Red Cross. Some 15,000 people who are now in safety but lost everything in the fighting received blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheeting, buckets, soap and cooking utensils.