The challenges and our response
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with over 170 million inhabitants. Although it is oil-rich, health indicators are poor and a deepening food crisis in the country’s northeast is now Africa’s largest humanitarian emergency.
Since 2010, the militant group Boko Haram has been waging violent attacks on civilians across Nigeria, creating a deteriorating security situation with increasing numbers of victims, destruction of social and economic infrastructure and disruption of education services. As a result, almost two million people are internally displaced and nearly five million people are facing severe food insecurity—1.4 million of whom are facing “emergency” and 38,000 famine-like conditions. International Medical Corps has worked in Nigeria since 2013 and currently has team in Sokoto, Kano, and Borno states, delivering programs in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, gender-based violence prevention and response, and food security.
Nutrition and Food Security: The food crisis in northeastern Nigeria is deepening, with 5.2 million people expected to not have enough in mid-2017 and 450,000 children suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition. Some areas, particularly those under the control of Boko Haram, could face famine conditions without humanitarian assistance. International Medical Corps is providing lifesaving treatment for moderate and severe malnutrition for approximately 160,000 children under five in Sokoto and Borno states. For those children who are severely malnourished with medical complications, our teams facilitate referrals to stabilisation centres where they can receive around-the-clock medical care. We also work to prevent malnutrition by educating mothers and caretakers in infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, like exclusive breastfeeding through six months of age.
Together with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), International Medical Corps also worked to improve household food security by distributing supplementary food to an estimated 176,000 people in Borno State, the epicentre of the current food crisis that could potentially spiral into famine conditions.
Immunisation Program: In August 2016, two children were reported paralysed with wild poliovirus in Borno State—more than two years without any cases. The resurgence of the disease is directly linked to the ongoing conflict and displacement that has left people displaced from their homes without access to health care and humanitarian assistance. Starting in 2015, International Medical Corps has been a part of the Core Group Polio Project, a consortium of NGOs actively supporting polio eradication in seven countries, with a focus on community-based surveillance, social mobilisation for vaccination campaigns and routine immunisation, campaign planning, independent campaign monitoring, vaccine registers and tracking children’s vaccinations.
International Medical Corps, working in Borno and Kano states together with the state emergency operations centres as the lead, works to vaccinate children under five against polio, while mobilising caretakers of children less than one years old for routine immunisation. Each month, we help provide polio vaccines to more than 180,000 children in Borno and over 85,000 in Kano. We also train and mentor local government staff and volunteers to tackle community suspicions about the vaccination campaigns so that they are receptive to having their children vaccinated.
Health Care: International Medical Corps is making health care services available to more than 255,000 people in four local government areas in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health (mainly through the Primary Health Care Development Agency). This includes identifying priority health care centres to be rehabilitated in areas of Borno with a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). We also build the capacity of health care personnel, including doctors and nurses, through trainings and supportive supervision, specifically in integrated management of childhood illness, immunisation and maternal and child health.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: International Medical Corps is improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in six local government areas of Borno State, reaching more than 334,000 people. This includes improving IDPs’ and host communities’ well-being through sustainable access to safe water, sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices. Improvements in WASH infrastructure are accompanied by a set of hygiene “awareness reminder” activities as well as rehabilitation of waste management facilities, especially waste pits and waste collection bins.
Gender-based Violence: International Medical Corps works to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence (GBV) in four local government areas of Borno State, reaching more than 30,000 people. While mainly providing psychosocial support, International Medical Corps emphasises on a multi-sectoral GBV response approach through coordination and referral systems with the medical, legal/security and livelihoods actors in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri.
In providing psychosocial support to survivors, International Medical Corps uses women-friendly spaces as an avenue to provide services and case management to survivors of GBV. The women-friendly spaces give women and girls safe places report and receive individualised case management services, including referrals to specialised and more advanced care. The spaces also enable women to interact with each other, building a social support network through participation in skills-building activities to make hats, fans, and beaded handbags. We also facilitate specific educational discussions on the causes and consequences of GBV.
To help prevent GBV, we work with a group of women volunteers at the community-level who distribute information about GBV and what services are available to women and girls. Working with traditional leaders, we also host GBV awareness sessions for men in the community.