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COVID-19 threatens 1.5m Borno IDPs, humanitarian assistance

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The Head of Mission of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, Siham Hajaj, has stated that Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic threatens 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and humanitarian assistance in Borno State.

He said in the face of the pandemic, malaria, malnutrition and water-borne diseases would also not relent. Hajaj, in a statement yesterday in Maiduguri, the state capital, disclosed: “COVID-19 is not the only threat facing people in Borno State, but its presence in Nigeria highlights extreme vulnerability.

“Many IDPs in camps and host communities have already endured the horrors of war, disease and malnutrition.” He said social distancing for IDPs is an abstract luxury, while frequent hand washing also diminishes a precious resource, noting: “In the face of this pandemic, the ramifications of Borno’s fragile health infrastructure are clearer than ever.”

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Hajaj warned that it is imperative that humanitarian assistance be maintained for IDPs in camps and host communities, as there have been outbreaks of severe malnutrition, malaria, measles and cholera among displaced persons since the armed conflict started.

According to him, about 1.5 million IDPs in the state now face the spectre of COVID-19 that have already claimed two lives, lamenting that functioning health infrastructure in the state is scarce and its capacity to refer patients extremely limited.

He, therefore, called on government to maintain essential humanitarian assistance, including water and sanitation facilities, in camps and frontline health workers, warning: “COVID-19 has a devastating effect on healthcare systems, economies and populations worldwide and it poses a substantial threat in Borno.”

Hajaj said even if the virus were not in Nigeria, the need for humanitarian assistance in Borno State would still be massive, noting that as raining season draws nearer, there would be surge in cases of malaria and malnutrition.

He disclosed that MSF teams treated over 10,000 patients for malnutrition in the state and over 33,000 confirmed cases of malaria, including over 40,000 patients admitted to emergency rooms.

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