By Ndidi Chukwu
World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNFPA) have decried poor coordination of the humanitarian situation in the insurgency ravaged North East States of Nigeria. This was gathered at a stakeholders meeting for development of ‘robust health agenda’ as part of the Presidential Comprehensive North East Response Plan.
The meeting which sort to end the humanitarian crisis in the North East observed lack of political will and commitment in place to win the insurgency which has rendered millions on Nigerians homeless.
Development partners expressed concern at the efforts by the Nigerian government, partners and individuals which have been largely uncoordinated, unsystematic and scattered, but are developing a more coordinated approach to mitigate the impact of insurgencies conflicts and allied matters on the health sector response.
Part of their positions to the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria is for repositioning and restructuring of the Federal Ministry of Health to effectively coordinate and respond to the health sector. They want the Ministry to particularly take the leadership role in coordination, policy formulations and development of plan and guidelines for the response.
WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Rui Gama Vaz,who spoke at the meeting, noted the need for greater coordination of humanitarian efforts.
He said “we have so many initiatives. We have many players, but we need to define how to strengthen our coordination on the ground. The second issue is in terms of accountability. We need to make sure of who does what, and who is going to be held responsible for work that is expected to be done. I believe that we need also to priorities our interventions obviously. There are too many issues, but what are the key issues that require our intervention.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, stressed that the health agenda to be developed from the meeting would be sent to the Presidency as part of the Comprehensive North East Response.
He said: “Things are no longer the same because the insurgency is affecting a lot of peopl. But what we are saying is let’s face the challenge and prevent it from snowballing. We are currently having restrictions in terms of resources available to the country and this has serious implications. When you have reduced fund available and you now have to use part of it to fight insurgency. The implication is that money that should go for development is now actually used for things that are not development oriented.
“That is why the earlier we moved to address it, the better for us. We need to appreciate Mr. President that things have to be checked by December. I pray we succeed, because the earlier we got over it, the better. But there would be after effect. The after effect would be felt long after the end of the insurgency. We are talking about a huge humanitarian challenge, health, education needs, and even the effect after the insurgency. There are nutritional and mental health challenges, for instance.”
He emphasized the place of team work. His words: “This is why it is important that we work as a team. I must say that this forum will afford us the opportunity to develop a robust health agenda as part of the Comprehensive North East Response. There is a Presidential Initiative and we have been mandated to provide the health response and provide leadership in respect to that. We have been working with other sector, education, the militarily, among others.”
Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to Nigeria, Madam Ratidzai Ndhlovu, stressed the worsening state of humanitarian situation in the North East, calling for stakeholders to come together for better intervention of interventions.
She stressed: “As you must all be aware, the recent attacks of the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations by the Multinational Joint Task Force have worsened the humanitarian situation in the North East of Nigeria. Recent reports show that there are more than 2.2 million internationally displace persons in the country which over 1.9 million are found in the four North East states (Adamawa, Borno, Gombe and Yobe). Some estimates put that the number requiring humanitarian assistance in the NE is as high as 7 million, many of them in difficult to access areas.
“UNFPA has been at the forefront of ensuring the availability of life-saving maternal and new born health commodities through its Global Program on Reproductive Health Commodities Securities (GPRHCS). It equally plays a leading role in Nigeria by supporting the Federal Ministry of Health in procuring of reproductive health and family planning commodities and supplies, including its last mile distribution to the Service Delivery Points in all states of the federation, especially in the conflict areas of the North-East.”
Head of Economic/Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr. Chikara Yoshimura stressed that his country funds the ‘Strengthening Sexual and Reproductive Health Service Provision in Conflict Affected Communities in North-East Nigeria Project’ to increase availability and utilization of life-saving reproductive health commodities and services among vulnerable groups.