COVID-19: Nigeria needs epidemic response plan, social protection policy for IDPs – Expert

Following the need to address the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic across the globe, experts in Nigeria have called for a defined response plan to deal with the crisis in the country.

Kabiru Abbas, the Team Leader for the Support to Coordination of the European Union Funded Interventions in Borno State (SCEUBS) said Nigeria as a country needs an epidemic response plan and social protection policy for its vulnerable citizens.

Abbas made the contribution on Thursday, May 21, during a virtual meeting titled; Protecting the Most Vulnerable: The Case of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

He said Nigeria ought to have a register of IDPs and vulnerable people to enable the country to target this category of people at all times.

Addressing challenges faced by IDPs in Nigeria, Abbas said in tackling issues of education, a lot more has to be done considering the risks and level of vulnerability of the displaced individuals.

He also said there is a need for relevant education authorities to explore e-learning platforms taking into cognizance the regulations of COVID-19 lockdown.

Abbas said: “There are mechanisms for e-learning, through the education ministry, the state is exploring radio for learning with UNICEF, plan international and Care in Nigeria.”

“Many schools are exploring Whatsapp Platforms for learning. The challenges to remote learning are education and access to digital devices,” he said.

Abbas called for strengthened coordination between development and peace nexus, and the movement from humanitarian to development, collation of data for decision making and the development of remote learning process across the nation.

Also calling for the domestication of the Kampala Convention for IDPs, Abbas said the Federal and State governments should look at the protocols and treaties that need to be put in place to ensure that IDPs can have the right protection they need.

“We need to look at the instrument that will empower the humanitarian and human right agencies to do more,” Abbas said.

Adding that available data on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria has been on the rise due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, Abbas said survivors of these criminal acts must be supported medically and legally.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of Herwas Community Development Initiative, Mohammed Hassan, said the challenges faced by IDPs during the COVID-19 lockdown includes access to certain materials, water and food as many sponsors are withdrawing. 

Hassan said monthly ratios of food items at most of the IDPs camps are inadequate.

“The accommodations that have been provided by UNHCR are not permanent. So, when it is the rainy season, IDPs may not have where to live in,” Hassan said.

He added: “In one of the camps, in Borno State, about 200 people came in recently and that has added to the pressure. We even have people coming from the Host Communities to stay.”

However, the Borno State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Babakura Abba-Jato, said the first thing the State Government did at the onset of the lockdown was to embark on sensitization of the public with particular attention to the most vulnerable – IDPs.

He said the state in partnership with the North East Development Commission (NEDC) also, provided hand wash station, hand sanitizers and other basic items needed for the prevention of COVID-19 within the camps.

“To follow the principle of social distancing, people were discouraged from large crowd gatherings. New camps were created to reduce the clustering of people in the IDP camps. Like Gala, Mongono,” Abba-Jato said.

He also noted that while some camps have witnessed an influx of IDPs due to the extension of the lockdown, Borno State Government is doing its best rebuilding some of the communities devastated by insurgency.

“These buildings are being done so that the IDP camps can be decongested. The State Emergency Agencies are also building some shelters to decongest the IDP camps. In addition to that palliatives are being delivered to the IDPs by the Borno State Government and the NEMA,” the Commissioner said.

He further called for sustained collaboration between government and non-governmental organisations in protecting the most vulnerable individual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Onus is one the NGOs to bring in a lending hand rather than passing blames we should work towards solving the problem together,” Abba-Jato concluded.