The challenges and our response
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with more than 205 million inhabitants. Although it is oil-rich, health indicators are poor and a deepening food crisis in the country’s northeast is now Africa’s largest humanitarian emergency, with more than 7 million people in need of life-saving assistance and nearly 2 million displaced inside the country.
Food insecurity is widespread, with an estimated 5 million people unsure where their next meal is coming from, and tens of thousands of people are expected to face famine-like conditions. We are responding to emergency needs in Borno State—the epicentre of the crisis—as well as Kano State, further west. We have worked in Nigeria since 2013 and currently have teams in Kano and Borno states delivering programs focused on health, nutrition, water and sanitation, gender-based violence prevention and response, and food security.
In Borno, where the Boko Haram insurgency continues to drive instability and displacement, International Medical Corps is working in the state capital, Maiduguri, and in nine local government areas (LGAs) in the northern and southern parts of the state, to provide life-saving assistance to families forced from their homes by violence and vulnerable host community members. We also provide emergency nutrition services, gender-based violence treatment and response, and water and sanitation services, and serve as a key actor supporting polio eradication efforts across Borno State, including areas that have just become accessible to humanitarian organisations.
Nutrition and Food Security
Nigeria is home to one of the most widespread and severe food crises in the world, as the ongoing armed conflict involving organised groups (including Boko Haram) has destroyed livelihoods, livestock and agricultural lands, and eroded families’ ability to feed themselves. Sizable pockets of northern Nigeria are expected to experience food shortages. For many, those shortages pose the threat of extreme, famine-like conditions, while hundreds of thousands of children could face life-threatening malnutrition. International Medical Corps is currently providing lifesaving treatment for moderate and severe acute malnutrition for children under 5 in Borno State. This work is supported by teams of community volunteers who go house to house to screen children for malnutrition and refer cases as needed to our nutrition outpatient treatment centres—jointly managed by International Medical Corps and State Ministry of Health staff—and stabilisation centre for further care. The community volunteers also provide training for mothers and caretakers on healthy infant and young child feeding practices, especially among pregnant and nursing mothers. Together with the UN World Food Program (WFP), International Medical Corps is preventing malnutrition and improving household food security by distributing nutrient-dense, ready-to-use supplementary food to children under 5, well as oil and vitamin-fortified flour to pregnant and breastfeeding women. These distributions reach thousands of people in Borno State— most of whom are internally displaced.
A resurgence of polio has been directly linked to the ongoing conflict, which has left people displaced from their homes without access to healthcare and humanitarian assistance. Starting in 2015, International Medical Corps has been an implementing partner under a broad consortium in Nigeria run by World Vision for the Core Group Polio Project (CGPP). Core Group is a consortium of NGOs actively supporting polio eradication in seven countries, with a focus on community-based surveillance, social mobilisation for vaccination campaigns and routine immunisation, campaign planning, independent campaign monitoring, vaccine registers and tracking children’s vaccinations.
The WHO recently declared Nigeria free of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) following completion of the review and verification of documentation by the Africa Regional Certification Commission. The Polio-free status is an important step for Nigeria and has been achieved through the tireless efforts of frontline healthcare workers and the volunteer community. In Kano state, there have been no confirmed WPV cases for six years and in Borno state there have been no confirmed cases since 2016.
International Medical Corps is working with the state Ministry of Health to make healthcare services available to internally displaced families and vulnerable host community residents. In close collaboration with the national Ministry of Health, through state Primary Health Development Agency offices in Kano and Borno states, International Medical Corps contributes to polio eradication by focusing on hard-hit communities and health facilities while ensuring that there are strong community-based surveillance and referral systems in place to respond to disease outbreaks, including cholera, Lassa fever and COVID-19. International Medical Corps is also working to build the capacity of community-based organisations to strengthen existing local structures in both Borno and Kano states, and to provide WASH support to health facilities in southern Borno.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
International Medical Corps is providing access to drinking water, and improving hygiene and sanitation, to nearly 67,000 people across six local government areas (LGAs) in Borno State. Our teams work in camps providing housing for internally displaced families to improve and increase access to potable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. This includes rehabilitating boreholes fitted with hand pumps, restoring small water-distribution systems with solar-powered submersible pumps, chlorinating water at the source and in households, and disseminating key hygiene messages. We also improve overall sanitation and hygiene in communities by constructing and managing latrines and showers, providing trash cans and creating drainage systems to improve community hygiene and prevent vector-borne diseases. This infrastructure is complemented by teams of community volunteers who teach families about the importance of personal hygiene in health and how to prevent potentially deadly waterborne diseases, such as cholera.
International Medical Corps works to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) cases in six LGAs of Borno State. Community volunteers reached more than 250,000 people in the past year with basic information on GBV and its consequences, as well as on services available to them, including women-friendly spaces (WFS) that offer healing and empowerment for vulnerable women and GBV survivors. The WFS are safe environments, usually situated in centres where women and girls can socialise and make small handicrafts, such as embroidered traditional caps and beaded handbags, that they can sell to generate income for their families. Our caseworkers are also in the centres to provide one-on-one comprehensive case management, offer counselling services and facilitate referrals as needed for specialised and more advanced care. International Medical Corps also trains healthcare workers from the government and partner agencies on the case management, the referral pathway and available legal services, to ensure that survivors receive appropriate care when referred by caseworkers and volunteers.