Nigeria: ICRC expands presence in Niger Delta and in north
In the past year, the ICRC has scaled up its activities in Nigeria. Zoran Jovanovic, head of the ICRC delegation in Abuja, explains the organization's humanitarian work and the challenges it faces in the country.
Why is the ICRC expanding its activities and presence in Nigeria?
Because of the changing realities and needs in the country. Situations of violence that arose at the beginning of 2010 made it necessary for the ICRC to work in closer proximity to vulnerable people in the Niger Delta and in the north of the country so as to be able to respond to their needs in a timely and effective manner. We therefore opened a sub-delegation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, and an office in Kano, in the state of the same name in northern Nigeria. We continue to work closely with the Nigerian Red Cross Society. At the same time, we are developing new activities in line with our aim of easing suffering.
What activities is the ICRC involved in?
In cooperation with Nigeria's health ministry, the ICRC is developing its medical activities in the Niger Delta. Our aim is to provide existing health facilities in remote areas with medical personnel, basic drugs and other medical items, and to make available prenatal health care by operating mobile clinics on boats. In the north, we plan to provide medical assistance during emergencies and improve access to safe drinking water for those who need it most.
The ICRC is also strengthening its cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross Society. To improve the society's response during emergencies, training in first aid and emergency preparedness is being organized in selected Nigerian Red Cross branches in the Niger Delta, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri. Several branches in the Niger Delta and in the north have already been involved in first-aid training.
We continue to spread knowledge of the rules of international humanitarian law among the national authorities and among armed forces and police personnel. We maintain a regular dialogue with the hierarchy of the Nigerian armed and security forces and continue to promote the incorporation of international humanitarian law in their doctrine, training programmes and operations.
What challenges does the ICRC face and how will it meet them?
The social and cultural complexity, vast territory and large population of Nigeria are formidable challenges. The magnitude and diversity of the humanitarian needs stand out as well. The ICRC is therefore focusing its efforts on selected priority areas and communities particularly exposed to violence. The establishment of the ICRC's sub-delegation in Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta, and of its office in Kano, in the north, has brought the organization closer to vulnerable communities, which has enabled it to deepen its understanding of the context on the ground. This has put it in a position to respond more efficiently and appropriately to needs as they arise.
To meet these challenges, the ICRC will continue to work with Nigerian Red Cross branches in the priority areas. We will also consolidate our activities conducted from Port Harcourt and Kano by taking a so-called "integrated approach" that combines medical work and water and sanitation activities.
What next for the ICRC in Nigeria?
The ICRC plans to continue strengthening its activities in the field and to seek ways of extending its humanitarian activities to areas at risk of violence, such as Maiduguri, in Borno state.