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How IOM is promoting WASH among IDPs in Northeast Nigeria to contain COVID-19

Women collect water from a solar-powered borehole in a camp in Maiduguri, Borno State Photo: IOM 2020

The Humanitarian Post

July17, 2020- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is extending its water,

sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) operations in Nigeria as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt the health, public life and livelihoods in Africa’s most populous country.

The IOM made this known in a statement posted on its website on Friday highlighting its activities and as the disease continues to spread in northeast Nigeria and interventions to reduce the spread of the virus.

UN Migration agency says a its new project will help prevent and control COVID-19 infections in three areas in Borno State with high concentrations of displaced persons; areas also deemed high-risk for disease spread.

The USD 6.22 million project aimed at strengthening COVID-19 Preparedness and Response in North-east Nigeria through targeted Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Activities is funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

The project the IOM says will be implemented over a twelve-month period.

The IOM said its services on the project will reach an estimated 420,000 IDPs in 120 camps and nearby communities in Maiduguri, Konduga, and Damasak municipalities in Borno State.

It said the project will supply clean and safe water, as well as 22,000 hygiene kits with soap, buckets, and other items, to populations at risk.

“On average, IOM supplies two million liters of water per day to 113,500 people in Borno where torrential rains and flooding have caused substantial damage to latrines, showers, handwashing stations and solar panels.

“The funding will allow IOM to train and mobilize displaced communities to repair and maintain these facilities and construct an additional 1,040 handwashing points using foot-operated water taps and soap dispensers to avoid contact with surfaces.

“To complement these activities, IOM field workers are training local camp residents on risk communication and community engagement, reaching close to 20,000 people through door-to-door awareness raising.”

Mr Teshager Tefera, IOM Nigeria WASH Programme Manager said without the availability of sanitation facilities and hygiene materials, IDPs are extremely vulnerable to disease transmission.

“Our teams continue working alongside displaced communities to bring clean water to camps and nearby settlements, but more needs to be done,” Tefera said.

According to IOM, on July 14, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had recorded 591 confirmed cases and 35 associated deaths in Borno, where a decade-long humanitarian crisis has left 1.8 million people displaced and 10.6 million in need of assistance.

It stated that the impact of an outbreak among the displaced populations in this area could be devastating.

In Borno, the largest state in the region, about 80 per cent of the estimated 840,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) live in makeshift and temporary shelters in overcrowded conditions where physical distancing is difficult, if not impossible.

Moreover, despite the pandemic, attacks by non-state armed groups in the north-east are ongoing, including in areas close to humanitarian operations.

On 2 July, an attack in Damasak claimed the lives of two civilians, including a five-year old child, and damaged a humanitarian helicopter.

The Humanitarian Post reports that recently, IOM Nigeria launched its COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response plan with a request of USD 19.3 million to mitigate the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts.

The plan also seeks to ensure the continuity of life-saving assistance in emergency settings.

Mr Franz Celestin, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission says “this is our largest WASH donation since the programme began in Nigeria in 2018, and it arrives at a time when these services are most needed.

“The support from OFDA will help ensure the sustainability of our life-saving activities in Borno,” Celestine said.

Lariya Magaji, an 89-year old woman living with her granddaughter in Stadium Camp, Maiduguri said despite being blind, she always pay attention to the hygiene promoters who tell us how to properly wash our hands to avoid the virus.

Magaji said she spends most of her time at home and I always look forward to the visit of IOM hygiene promoters.

IOM said that to avoid mass gatherings, information will be shared also via loudspeakers mounted on tricycles to reach high numbers of IDPs in camps without exposing them to risks.

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