Health workers provide care to gender-based violence survivors in north-eastern Nigeria

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A member of the hard-to-reach team providing support to a patient in Borno State. © WHO

Maiduguri, 12 November, 2019 - In north-eastern Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Government to expand and improve services offered to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

One of the many consequences of the conflict and insecurity that have ridden north-eastern Nigeria for the past decade is a surge in SGBV. More than 6 500 women and girls were identified as survivors of SGBV, (Source: United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) report, 2016).

At the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Maiduguri in Borno State, for example, there is now a GBV working group which builds the skills of community health extension workers, nurses and midwives drawn from the State Ministry of Health and the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (SPHCDA). The group also offers mentoring.

“The GBV initiative is timely as this is a recurring issue which affects many of our women,” says Dr Salisu Kwaya Bura, Commissioner for Health, “Borno State Government will continue to provide the needed support and create an enabling environment for these interventions to be successful.”

Succour in conflict-ridden areas

Mercy Ameh and Suzan Igbokwe Amarachi are both registered nurses who work as part of WHO’s mobile health teams that provide services to displaced people in camps and hard-to-reach communities. They are benefitting from being part of the group.

“It is a great privilege and opportunity for me as a health worker to be equipped with the necessary knowledge, training and requirements to serve and always support my fellow women and their children, especially in times of crisis,” says Ms Ameh, who works in Shuwari internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri. “I have committed myself to doing this despite risks of attack by insurgents in Borno State. It gives me immense joy anytime I offer counselling services to GBV-affected women and their children.”

Similarly, Ms Amarachi works in challenging and remote locations in Konduga Local Government Area (LGA), that hosts many IDPs. She buttresses her colleague’s points.

“The patients usually come to us at the clinic with various health problems including complications from sexual violence,” she explains. “We respond to the immediate physical, emotional and psychological health needs of women and girls who have been subjected to intimate partner violence or gender-based violence.”

Training personnel on counselling and clinical management of rape cases

In addition to the GBV working group, in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, WHO plans to train Government health workers in counselling and clinical management of rape cases. The trained health workers will be able to offer post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent patients becoming infected after possible exposure to HIV, HIV testing and emergency contraceptives.

So far, in Borno State, WHO has trained 151 HTR team members to respond to the immediate physical, emotional and psychological health needs of women and girls subjected to intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

“We believe we can leverage our existing access in hard-to-reach areas to improve and expand our coverage of basic services for GBV survivors,” says Saratu Ayuba, the WHO HTR Mobile Health Team Coordinator. “We also plan to address loopholes and better incorporate GBV indicators into service monitoring and data collection. Furthermore, WHO will engage the health sector working group to scale up coverage and quality of appropriate GBV response and prevention services for populations at risk.”

WHO has also trained 75 government staff – nurses, midwives and community health extension workers – from a number of health facilities in providing first line support to GBV survivors.

In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, a US research university, WHO is supporting the adoption of a GBV Quality Assurance Tool which offers health care providers, facilities and programme planners a straightforward way to start, strengthen or expand post-GBV health services through the use of evidence-based standards. Government health workers have also received training in QAT to improve GBV services.

Lastly, WHO is supporting the rehabilitation of health facilities to improve health service delivery and access to a comprehensive range of health services.

Funding for the GBV programme was provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Technical Contacts: Dr Ifeanyi Okudo; Tel: +2348034020833; Email:

For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact: Ms Charity Warigon Tel: +234 810 221 0093 Email: