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The victims, the cost of the Boko Haram crisis


The humanitarian crisis in the North-East is complex and multifaceted with more than two million people been displaced and tens of thousands killed over the past decade. The sheer destruction of the basic economic and social infrastructure and the impact of the insurgency on all the basic Human Development indices are vast.  

Many women were sexually abused, fathers were killed and families separated leading to the neglect of children. Reports by the World Bank in 2016 shows that all the six regions of Nigeria, with the exception of the Northeast, registered a decline in the poverty incidence. The poverty headcount index, within 2004 – 2013 has decreased.  Women and young people are often victims of different and interconnecting forms of discrimination and exclusion that excludes them from participating in economic affairs that affect them, therefore undermining their aspirations.

When the Boko haram insurgency started in 2009, former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton attributed the problem related with the rise of conflict in Nigeria to the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and poverty in the rural communities. “The lack of transparency and accountability had eroded the legitimacy of government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state.”

The Human Development Report 2018 by the UNDP revealed other implications such as the increase in the number of IDPs; houses and commercial areas that were destroyed and resulting in psychological trauma for many, the rise in hypertension cases and other health problems.

In 2016 an estimate of 1,687,703 people were displaced in different camps in three states, with the larger percentage being women and children. The direct consequence of the influx of IDPs has been the simultaneous increase in food insecurity, poor health services, poor water supply and sanitation in the registered camps.

Considering the magnitude of the crisis, the federal government and Borno state government were confronted with capacity challenges to offer protection to all the displaced persons. It proved arduous to ensure that IDPs do not suffer rape and thefts and women and girls do not turn to vices such as prostitution as an alternative means for self-support.

A  2014 report reveals that IDPs in Borno state often had only limited access to health services and that this primarily affected women and children. Most health facilities, some of which were deliberately targeted by Boko Haram were closed as of mid-2014 while others were damaged or completely destroyed. As of March 2014, only 37 per cent of the health facilities in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states were functional.

IDPs and host communities in the Northeast have only limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, leading to a decline in health and hygiene among both IDPs and their host communities. Open defecation raises health, security and dignity issues, particularly for women and girls. The general environmental hygiene among displaced households is poor as a result of congested conditions and shortages of water which becomes an issue of concern to women and teenage girls.

“Women and girls in north-east Nigeria face a severe crisis as they struggle to cope with acute malnutrition, sexual violence and exploitation, severe trauma, high rates of maternal death and other risks to their health and well-being,” said former UNFPA Executive Director, late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Amongst the 7 million affected people in northeast Nigeria, about 1,750,000 are women and girls of childbearing age who need sexual and reproductive health services. These services include prenatal and postnatal care, emergency obstetric care for safe birth, prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, treatment for rape and provision of psychosocial counselling. Assessments supported by the United Nations indicate that a high proportion of women and girls in north-east Nigeria have suffered different forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence. Meeting their medical, psychosocial and other needs is a major undertaking that needs intensified support.

This report is undertaken with support from Code For Africa to amplify the Gender Gap conversation

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