Boko Haram: WHO Empowers 5,500 Health Workers in North-east

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Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that it empowered 5,500 health workers through capacity building interventions across the North-east region of Nigeria.

These 5,500 health care workers were trained between 2017 and 2019, the three most ravaged states by Boko Haram terrorists-Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

Attacks on the health facilities in the 10-year-old humanitarian emergency in North-east has resulted not only in two-thirds of health facilities being completely or partially destroyed by the sect but the healthcare workforce has also drained drastically leaving functional health facilities and staff overburdened, and sometimes compelled to handle tasks beyond their capacities.

In 2018 alone, the agency said, 13 attacks on health facilities led to 17 deaths and 12 injuries involving healthcare workers.

According to Public Service International, an estimated 177 health workers (Borno State 168 and Yobe State nine) have been killed by insurgents in states since the insurgency started in the region in 2009.

According to WHO, the training is aimed at addressing the consequences and impact of the current conflict in the region on the health care system.

Former Borno State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, had said the attrition rates of health workers have severely affected the quality of healthcare in the state as it lost 35 percent of its doctors to other states.

She said: “In 2011, there were 35 medical doctors with the Borno State Government which increased to 115 in 2013 and later dropped to 75 before the state beefed up recruitment.”

WHO lamented that the drastic decrease in the quality and capacity of the healthcare system in the region stands in contrast with the increased need for life-saving health services from the population affected by the conflict.

The United Nations has said it is estimated that 5.3 million people are in need of health interventions and assistance in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, including close to four million children.

According to Officer in Charge, WHO Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peter Lasuba, the organisation has identified capacity-building intervention as an integral part of the strategy to strengthen the health system in the region.

According to him, “Through capacity building interventions, WHO aims not only to improve the capacity of national health staff but ultimately to save more lives.”

He revealed that the WHO capacity building interventions cover a wide array of health services, including surveillance, risk communication and mental healthcare, noting that this capacity-building efforts have contributed in improving the skills of health care workers to provide adequate quality lifesaving services to the affected population.

WHO capacity building interventions in the Northeast was made possible thanks to the financial support of the USAID Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the Federal Government of Germany, the Government of Japan, the Government of Korea, Global Affairs Canada, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.