The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing support for the Nigerian Red Cross to treat those injured in the recent wave of protests. The ICRC had, in 2011, stepped up its operations in the violence-prone regions of northern Nigeria and in the Niger Delta in the south of the country.
Humanitarian response to the strike
"One of our teams joined Nigerian Red Cross volunteers in Benin City in the state of Edo on 11 January to help them treat and evacuate the many people who have been injured," said Mamadou Sow, the deputy head of the ICRC's delegation in Nigeria. "Over 4,000 persons have also been temporarily displaced there as a result of the strike and communal tensions. Most of them have now started to return to their homes."
The difficult situation in Benin City is one of many which arose as a result of a nationwide strike, called on 9 January by labour organizations to protest the withdrawal of fuel subsidies. In recent days, the ICRC has also provided dressing kits and other first-aid material to the Nigerian Red Cross in the states of Kano, Yobe, Borno, Gombe and Adamawa. "Moving from one place to another remains difficult, but we are stepping up our efforts to reach those areas that are most affected," said Mr Sow.
Since the strike began, Nigerian Red Cross volunteers have provided first aid all over the country to more than 600 injured persons. Many of the most serious cases have been evacuated to nearby health-care facilities. In hospitals facing staff shortages because of the strike, notably in Kano, volunteers served as health-care workers.
Aid to victims of inter-communal violence
Recent bombings, armed confrontations between the group known as Boko Haram and security forces, and inter-communal violence have affected northern states and other parts of the country. The violence has affected civilians more than anyone else.
In late December 2011 and early January this year, the ICRC provided support for various hospitals and health-care facilities in the states of Bauchi, Borno, Plateau and Yobe, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory. Medical supplies, including dressings and much-needed infusions, were supplied in places where casualties were high.
At the end of November 2011, in Barkin Lardi in the state of Plateau, the ICRC, together with the Nigerian Red Cross, provided direct assistance to over 300 victims of inter-communal clashes. They were given food and other essential items as well as emergency health care.
The Nigerian Red Cross has a presence throughout the country and is well placed to provide rapid treatment for people injured in situations of violence.
In 2011, the ICRC made it possible for over 600 Nigerian Red Cross volunteers from eight states particularly afflicted by violence to be trained in administering first aid (the ICRC provided technical, financial and material support for this). Selected branches of the Nigerian Red Cross received radio equipment, vehicles and protective clothing. They were also supplied body bags for the proper handling of human remains. Over the course of 2011, volunteers from the Nigerian Red Cross provided first aid to over 700 persons who were injured during ethno-religious and political clashes. In addition, almost 1,900 people from 62 communities in violence-prone areas were trained in first aid.
The ICRC has also determined that surgical skills have to be improved. A seminar to that end will take place towards the end of January.
Assisting displaced people in 2011
"A number of violent incidents, such as those that took place after the presidential elections in April 2011, forced people to leave their homes temporarily," said Mr Sow. "What displaced people need more than anything is food and water. We were able, together with the Nigerian Red Cross, to provide this rapidly."
In 2011, in Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi, these efforts benefited over 25,000 people in flight from post-election or inter-communal violence.
Immunizing remote communities in the Niger Delta
Together with the Ministry of Health in the state of Rivers, the ICRC has been providing immunization and other forms of health care to people in remote villages on the creeks of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.
"These communities, which have been affected in the past by armed violence, are reachable only by boat," said Mr Sow. "They are particularly exposed to skin diseases, malaria, respiratory infections, and waterborne diseases. Even so, they suffer from a serious shortage of health care."
In 2011, health-care teams reached 7,000 people in 40 communities. They immunized children under the age of two and women of childbearing age. Vitamin A supplements were also provided.
Promoting humanitarian rules
Efforts to incorporate international humanitarian law (IHL) in the Nigerian armed forces continued in 2011: over 550 officers and 700 other ranks attended various seminars over the course of the year.
Dialogue with senior police officials, regarding the treatment of those arrested in connection with violence, continued. Various police units were also briefed on relevant aspects of international human rights law. A three-day course of this kind was conducted for 18 instructors belonging to the Mobile Police in Maiduguri.
The ICRC also continued to work with Nigerian authorities to implement IHL through domestic legislation. In addition, presentations and seminars on IHL were held in nine universities and attended by over 2,500 students. 12 students specializing in IHL were also assisted with their thesis work.
Humanitarian diplomacy with ECOWAS
The ICRC maintained close relations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and regularly shared information on humanitarian issues of common interest in the greater West African region. The ICRC also participated as an observer in the Heads of State and Government summit held in Abuja in March 2011.
For further information, please contact:
Rafiullah Qureshi, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 9 461 96 13 or +234 703 595 41 68
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50