Humanitarian stakeholders from Nigeria and across the globe have emphasised the need to protect and empower internally displaced women and girls in Nigeria to be able to weather the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
They made the call during a virtual conference, “Building the Resilience of Internally Displaced and Refugee Women and Girls in the COVID-19 Era”, organised by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, NCFRMI, on Wednesday to mark the 2020 International Humanitarian Day.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Deputy Representative for Nigeria, Mr. Roger Hollo, noted that internally displaced and refugee women and girls faced security challenges, including abductions.
He regretted that the pandemic, coupled with security challenges, had seriously limited economic activities by women and girls and impacted the resources available to their families.
“We need to empower women and girls in IDP and refugee communities to stand up for their rights and also be able to go out safely to access jobs and opportunities”, Hollo added.
Speaking, the Project Coordinator for English Speaking West Africa, Public Services International, PSI, Ms. Moradeke Badru, lamented that Nigerian IDP and refugee women and girls were also affected by patriarchal system entrenched in the larger Nigerian society.
Badru said: “More than 60 per cent of IDPs in North East are women and children. There are lots of gaps in accessing antenatal and family planning commodities. There is need to strengthen the public health system and ensure the education of the girl child. IDP and refugee women need decent jobs, social protection, and there should be maximum security around healthcare facilities and healthcare workers”.
In her contribution, Coordinator of Gender Based Violence Sector and Acting Coordinator, Humanitarian Sector, Ms. Sylvia Opinia, highlighted the need for safe delivery, and safe access to prenatal care, traditional birth attendants, and community health workers to women in IDP and refugee camps.
Dr. George Ohwoekevwo, who is the Health Adviser at the Refugees Commission, listed efforts of by the agency to build the resilience of IDP and refugee girls and women to include trainings in facemasks, soap and hand sanitiser as well as distribution of hygiene items to put prevent outbreak of COVID-19 in the camps.
He, however, called for more support from well meaning Nigerians, local and international organisations to fill the enormous gaps in the areas of community engagement, funding, partnerships, and capacity building.
Other notable speakers and moderators, including the former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nigel Fisher; Deputy Coordinator, Protection of Civilian Population of the Geneva-based International Red Cross Society, ICRC, Anna Agnieszka; Deputy Director (IDPs) at the NCFRMI, Fatima Mamman-Daura; and the Deputy Director, Humanitarian Affairs, Federal Ministry of Disaster Management and Social Development, Mr. Charles Anaelo, emphasised the need for recommitment to the welfare of vulnerable groups, especially IDP and refugee women, girls as well as the protection of health and humanitarian workers.