NACA Director General, Prof. John Idoko
By Patrick Ugeh
The type of humanitarian crisis experienced in Somalia and Ethiopia some years ago is now the lot of many in parts of northern Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, climate change and the resultant drought and flood as well as other armed conflicts.
Stakeholders in the health sector raised the alarm in Minna, Niger State, at a two-day training programme organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, (NACA), for some health reporters and other stakeholders. They cried out that the declaration of the state of emergency had also taken its toll on relief efforts made by aid groups to send humanitarian assistance to victims because of security operations.
Painting the bleak situation with photographs of malnourished children, Humanitarian and Security Coordinator of Oxfam, Mr. Olayinka Afolabi, listed some of the affected states as Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Katsina, the last of which is the worst hit.
In his paper titled “Overview of Disaster Management Cycle & Humanitarian Situation in Nigeria,” Afolabi explained that the malnutrition, arising from the floods, violence and drought that occurred last year, had the potential of worsening the HIV/AIDS crisis in Nigeria since there was a clear link between malnutrition and infection by the dreaded disease through weakened immunity.
“The hunger along the Sahel region in northern Nigeria has led to malnutrition and, you may not know it, but the situation we had in Somalia and Ethiopia is now here in Nigeria,” he said. “This is because the areas affected by the floods produce 80 per cent of food in Nigeria. And most of the places affected by Boko Haram insurgency are those that produce grains for much of West Africa, not Nigeria alone.”
Afolabi lamented that the situation in a place like Borno State was made worse by the lack of access to provide victims with humanitarian aid.
He therefore appealed to the relevant authorities to move quickly to prevent the situation from escalating.
HIV Prevention Specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Abuja, Dr. Victoria Isiramen, assured that the UN was always interested in supporting governments to perform whatever duties they were best suited to do.
She said there was the need to coordinate information on emergencies arising from the crises through text messages to ensure aid got to victims promptly.
According to her, this was essential to minimise the exposure of people displaced by conflicts, floods and other disasters to HIV/AIDS as such misfortunes often made young women very vulnerable to getting infected by the disease.
The Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, stressed the need to mainstream HIV/AIDS into people’s day-to-day programmes as “all of us are vulnerable.”
Represented by Hajia Maimuna Mohammed, Director, Partnerships, Idoko said: “Plan to safeguard your family and colleagues. We can get the virus from other groups; so, by protecting others, we protect ourselves.
“In emergencies, we may realise that someone or even ourselves are HIV-positive. So, where do we take them to?”
The answer, she said, was that facilitators should always make information available on where people could have access to treatment and care.
The theme of the training programme was: Coordination, Planning and Programming: HIV:AIDS Intervention in Context of Emergency Preparedness, Internal Displacement/Conflict Situations.