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Nigeria: Population Movement Emergency Appeal No. MDRNG007

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This Emergency Appeal seeks CHF 788,942 (USD 540,372 or EUR 689,033) to support the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) in delivering immediate assistance to some 2,500 returnees while building the capacity of the Akwa Ibom and the Cross River Red Cross branches to implement the planned activities.

Appeal History:

=B7 CHF 75,939 (USD 69,035 or EUR 47,021) was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 24 September to support the assessment mission.

=B7 CHF 200,000 (USD 174,673 or EUR 136,987) was allocated from the Federation's DREF on 6 November to start up relief operations.

Summary:

This Emergency Appeal is to assist the approximate 2,500 returnees from the Bakassi Region living in four camps in the state of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. The Appeal builds on the original DREF allocations, the first of which supported the RDRT/FACT team deployment, assessment and the development of a Plan of Action to assist returnees and the second, to start up the procurement and distribution of relief items. The Federation will support the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) relief activities based on the Plan of Action developed to assist the immediate needs of 2,500 returnees. Health sensitization and hygiene promotion will be carried out within and outside the camps where the returnees are residing to help prevent the spread of disease.

This operation is expected to be implemented over 3 months, and will therefore be completed by 7 February 2009; a Final Report will be made available three months after the end of the operation (by 7 May 2009).

The situation

The Nigerian Government's formal handover of the Bakassi Region to Cameroonian authorities on 14 August 2008 resulted in a significant population movement. Thousands of Nigerians residing in Bakassi feared for their security and fled to Nigeria's Cross River and Akwa Ibom States. Most returnees left without basic personal items or lost money and belongings due to violent attacks.

Despite enormous efforts made by Akwa Ibom's local authorities to provide makeshift camps (the majority of the returnees are concentrated in Akwa Ibom State), the support provided does not meet all of the returnees' immediate needs. In Cross River State, there are smaller numbers of returnees, and Government has been able to provide more support. Since the influx started, the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), with support from their volunteers, has been receiving the returnees and providing limited assistance in temporary facilities or camps provided by the local authorities.

In support of the NRCS, the Federation's West and Central Africa Zone (WCAZ) office dispatched a joint Field Coordination and Assessment Team (FACT) and Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT), together with National Society representatives, who carried out an assessment in Akwa Ibom State and in Cross River State from 27 September to 7 October 2008. Information gathered from local government authorities on the number of returnees and the services provided was difficult to verify, and the FACT/RDRT mission therefore experienced difficulty in clarifying full information on the situation of the beneficiaries. Despite this, it is clear that assistance to the most vulnerable is urgently needed.

Meanwhile, the Government of Nigeria allocated funds to the Cross River State to begin the integration of the returnees. The state is attempting to mobilize these resources, and has commenced the rehabilitation of houses to accommodate the returnees. Government representatives indicate that returnees will be integrated into communities, but a comprehensive plan has yet to be implemented.

Returnees are residing in camps and residential areas in both the interior and coastal areas. Some are integrated into local communities. There are four main camps in Akwa Ibom State (Esit Eket, Ibiono Ibom, Ikot Abasi, and Okobo), accommodating approximately 2,500 returnees. In Esit Eket and Ikot Abasi returnees are living in empty houses without running water; government provided water is available in Ikot Abasi. In Ibiono Ibom returnees have crowded into the classrooms of an abandoned school and collect water from a nearby stream. In Okobo, returnees have occupied empty grass huts and collect rainwater to drink. In Esit Eket returnees are encroaching upon the resources of long term inhabitants, creating a potential conflict. Poor hygiene and sanitary conditions are adversely affecting living conditions in the camps (particularly Esit Eket, Ibiono Ibom and Ikot Abasi). There is a lack of bedding materials. Other returnees take out loans or perform hard labor to earn money to buy food. Most of the families observed during the assessment lack basic cooking utensils and other non-food items. Returnees' health is in jeopardy, particularly when water is not treated. There are also small camps in Cross River state; these camps are not as vulnerable as those in Akwa Ibom State.

A lack of appropriate interventions to date have increased the potential for a serious outbreak of various diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, worm infections, skin infections and malaria. A possible increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS is also a concern. More than thirteen people have been confirmed dead in the camps. No immunization efforts have been reported since the arrival of the returnees.

Access to health services in Nigeria is not free, and returnees must pay for health services. The distance to the nearest health facility from each of the four camps is 10 km or more. There is an urgent need to support the returnees in health and care, the provision of relief materials, and with safe drinking water. The Nigerian government has offered free health services to returnees in Okobo camp, but the cost of transportation to the health facility is unaffordable for most residents.