Children playfully run away from a fumigation machine which is disinfecting a camp for IDPs in Maiguduri as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19  | Photo: Audu Marte / AFP
Children playfully run away from a fumigation machine which is disinfecting a camp for IDPs in Maiguduri as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19 | Photo: Audu Marte / AFP

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned about the potential devastating consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak on millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern Nigeria.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned that conflict-affected communities in northeastern Nigeria are increasingly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic as cases begin to be reported in Borno State, where the camp is situated.

The UN agency said, in a statement on April 24, that an outbreak would have devastating consequences for millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the region, a majority of whom live in overcrowded and underserviced camps.

IOM said it is supporting healthcare workers to build 90 quarantine shelters across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spreading in densely populated camps and host communities.

Area affected by outbreaks

"Given the rapidly evolving situation in Nigeria and across the world, we must ensure that the health of displaced and host communities is a central part of our response," said Franz Celestin, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission.

Northeastern Nigeria remains highly prone to cholera outbreaks, and other diseases such as malaria, measles, Lassa fever, meningitis and hepatitis are endemic, IOM noted. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure increase the health risks of IDPs and returnees.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that around 35% of medical facilities have been destroyed or partially damaged due to the conflict.

Quarantine shelters for assistance

In coordination with health partners and emergency response agencies, IOM said it is building quarantine shelters for internally displaced persons and host communities in the towns of Gwoza, Pulka, Bama, Dikwa and Monguno. The shelters will consist of individual units with a latrine, shower, handwashing station and living quarters, the UN agency said.

Special provisions will be made for elderly people and breastfeeding women. According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, 981 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the country as of April 24. On April 18, the first case was reported in Borno State, the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis that has forced over 1.8 million people to leave their homes.
One in two camps in Borno State is currently overcrowded, which increases the risk of infection for the nearly 700,000 vulnerable people who live in such conditions.

"Camp decongestion has been a challenge, but it is now a priority. I call on all stakeholders to urgently contribute to efforts being made to decongest camps in respect of people's rights and dignity," said Edward Kallon, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.
 

More articles