2020 IN REVIEW
Continuous Population Movements
2020 witnessed persistent attacks by NSAGs on civilians and humanitarian facilities, and continuous population movements in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states, caused by both the NSAG attacks and military operations, with particular severity in Borno State.
A recurring reason for continuous population movements in 2020 was socioeconomic reasons. Populations initially displaced due to insecurity caused by attacks, fear of attacks or military operations were noticed arriving in IDP camps for reasons reported to be lack of socioeconomic opportunities in their areas of secondary displacement rather than directly linked to insecurity as previously observed among new arrivals.
Focus group discussions conducted with the concerned populations, community members and other stakeholders revealed that the new arrivals comprised of IDPs previously living in host communities on the outskirts of Maiduguri, host community members in Maiduguri as well as individuals from other states. These individuals had chosen to move to IDP camps in Maiduguri in the hope that they would receive humanitarian assistance to offset the economic hardships they were experiencing both as a result of the on-going insurgency, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attacks by NSAGs towards the end of the year caused a number of IDPs to flee to neighboring Niger.
Impact of COVID-19
In 2020, the humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nigeria like many other countries around the world, imposed containment measures to limit the spread of the virus especially among vulnerable populations.
Some of these measures included movement restrictions, lockdowns and the introduction of new health and hygiene standards such as social distancing, wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and handwashing.
In northeast Nigeria, measures were taken to ensure that camp communities remained protected and that infection did not enter the camps. These included the dissemination of IEC materials on protective measures to avoid infection, the setting up of isolation centers for new arrivals, handwashing stations and a ban on visitors to camps. However, social distancing in already over congested camps presented the biggest challenge to the humanitarian community.
Humanitarian service providers switched to remote monitoring measures and all meetings were moved to virtual platforms. Most protection partners withdrew from field locations, relying heavily on community-based structures to monitor the protection situation. These individuals and groups had received the relevant training to continue service delivery to ensure continuity of services. Field level activities including sensitizations, focus group discussions and the like continued with reduced participants. Community volunteers switched to door to door delivery of such services especially with advocacy on maintenance of good hygiene practices.
Movement restrictions during this period further exacerbated IDPs challenges to accessing essential services, food and other sources of livelihoods. While IDPs in some locations received two-months food rations just before the lockdown, there were concerns that IDPs would either barter these to meet their other needs or consume them before the next allocation arrived.
In August 2020, the Borno State Government (BSG), without prior consultations with the humanitarian community, announced plans to return IDPs from 19 Villages to their Areas of Origin (AoO).
Returns began in the second week of August in spite of protests by humanitarian actors that many of the selected locations were insecure and prone to attacks from NSAGs. In a number of locations, NSAGs attacked almost immediately after the returns took place, causing many of the newly returned IDPs to flee. Most to the camps from which they were relocated, and others to neighboring towns and states.
Protection Response in 2020
The conflict in the BAY states remains first and foremost protection crisis and the Protection Sector response, through the relevant child protection, gender-based violence, housing, land & property and mine action responses and structures, seeks to support the development of an environment where IDPs, returnees and host communities can enjoy their rights and are enabled to re-establish their lives.
In 2020, the sector targeted 2.5 million people comprising of IDPs, Refugee Returnees, and Host Communities. The initial sector financial requirement of $82.5M to implement 76 projects was reviewed upward to $96M to cover for new needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the end of 2020, the sector had successfully reached 79% of the people targeted for protection assistance., although it had received just 16% of its required funding.
The sector had planned a series of capacity building workshops for 2020, aimed at strengthening partners’ capacities to plan and respond to protection issues. However, in view of the rapidly changing environment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, these workshops and other scheduled meetings were moved to an online platform – Microsoft Teams.
The Protection Sector Virtual Learning Sessions were borne out of the need to continue to build the capacity of partners to identify and respond to protection issues even during the COVID-19 restrictions. Targeted at protection staff working in field locations, the sessions covered topics ranging from Protection Principles, Protection Mainstreaming, Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) and Trafficking in Persons, to integrating GBV in humanitarian action, legal frameworks for the protection of IDPs and Information Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA).
A total of 513 individuals participated in 17 sessions which ran from April to June.
Advocacy and Coordination
The Protection Sector drafted and disseminated a note on The Impact of COVID-19 and related Government measures on the Protection Situation NE Nigeria to the HCT, and a guidance note on isolation centers – Protection Guidelines for Isolation Centers in NE Nigeria to Government and humanitarian actors.
A presentation on the protection environment in the northeast was also made to the HCT and in addition to the monthly Sector meetings which were held in Maiduguri, monthly meetings were held in LGAs outside Maiduguri to endure coordinated protection response amongst partners. There was also regular engagement with security forces during CMCOORD meetings to provide security, minimize abuse of authority and on provisions to escort affected populations to access firewood.