The United Nation’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has extended its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) operations in northeast Nigeria in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. A new $6.22 Million USD project is directed at three areas in Borno State, the largest in the region, where an estimated 675,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in temporary shelters in overcrowded conditions, where physical distancing and frequent handwashing is difficult.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has recorded almost 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 35 associated deaths in Borno, where there are more than 1.8 million displaced people and more than 10.6 million needing humanitarian assistance. The agency states that an outbreak of COVID-19 could be devastating.
Services to supply clean and safe water are expected to reach an estimated 420,000 IDPs in 120 camps. The project also includes distribution of 22,000 hygiene kits with soap, buckets, and other items. The funding will also be used to train and mobilise displaced communities to repair and maintain facilities and construct an additional 1,040 handwashing points using foot-operated water taps and soap dispensers to avoid contact with surfaces.
Attacks by non-state armed groups continue to disrupt humanitarian efforts. In early July 2, an attack killed 2 civilians and damaged a humanitarian helicopter. In addition, torrential rain and flooding have caused substantial damage to latrines, showers, handwashing facilities and solar panels.
“Without the availability of sanitation facilities and hygiene materials, IDPs are extremely vulnerable to disease transmission,” Teshager Tefera, IOM Nigeria WASH Programme Manager, said 17 July. “Our teams continue working alongside displaced communities to bring clean water to camps and nearby settlements, but more needs to be done.”
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.
“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,” said Franz Celestin, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission. “The support from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) will help ensure the sustainability of our life-saving activities in Borno,” he added.