The UN system in Nigeria and its partners are working to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus disease in some of the most vulnerable areas in the country: communities and camps housing millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) uprooted by the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.
Teams are supporting authorities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states in developing emergency response plans that take into account the living conditions in many communities and IDP camps, where overcrowding can increase the risk of disease outbreaks.
“Humanitarian partners are installing hand-washing stations in IDP camps and ensuring supply of clean water. Partners are also distributing soap and teaching women how to produce their own,” said Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.
“More than ever, it is crucial for vulnerable people to have access to not only water, soap, shelters, but also food, education and protection.”
The decade-long crisis in the BAY states, which has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, has left more than seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Most of the displaced are in Borno state, the majority of whom are women and children, with around a quarter being children under age five, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.
“We will not wait for COVID-19 to reach camps for internally displaced persons before we act”, Mr. Kallon stated. “They have already suffered enough from the decade-long conflict and our priority is to ensure the continuous delivery of life-saving assistance, especially health services, to the most vulnerable women, children and the elderly who need special attention”.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are actively involved in camp coordination and camp management in IDP sites across northeast Nigeria, in support of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Key activities are being implemented jointly and under global guidance on COVID-19 Outbreak Preparedness and Response issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).
COVID-19 has affected 12 states across Nigeria, with 139 cases recorded as of Wednesday, and the UN also plans to bring in vital health equipment and tools to prevent and treat the respiratory disease.
The UN team has developed messages, posters, videos and other communications aimed at raising awareness about COVID-19 among IDPs and other vulnerable people in the northeast. Sensitization campaigns are also reaching millions in various states through partnerships with major TV and radio channels.
The UN and the Network of People Living with HIV (NEPWHAN) also will launch a survey tool to understand challenges to continuous access to quality HIV treatment, care and support amid the pandemic response.