The global COVID-19 pandemic increasingly affected humanitarian operations and access in north-east Nigeria. On 27 February, Nigeria recorded its first case of corona virus and closed all air travel on 23 March, with state governments in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe issuing lockdown restrictions throughout March and April. These restrictions affected supply chains and the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance.
Meanwhile, aid workers stepped up efforts to raise awareness on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and putting risk mitigation measures in place, such as setting up hand washing stations, ensuring an adequate supply of water, and building quarantine shelters. Aid organizations also ramped up risk communications messaging with motorized campaigns, door-to-door hygiene promotion in line with COVID-19 distancing measures, and rolling out a series of animation videos, public service announcements, and myth busters.
Movement restrictions also raise concernsabout the lack of livelihood opportunities and food insecurity. An initial analysis by WFP, indicates that about 7 million people may become food insecure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states due to the potential impact of a COVID-19 on food security and livelihoods. This is almost double the 3.7 million people who were projected to be food insecure in the 2020 lean season according to the March 2020 Cadre Harmonisé (CH).
Movement restrictions and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are also increasing risks of domestic violence and of gender-based violence including sexual violence. GBV Sub-Sector partners have developed innovative ways to adapt their response, including through new phone-in helpline services and redesigning safe and friendly spaces together with affected women.
School closures due to COVID-19 lockdowns also affected 4.2 million students across the BAY states, which led education sector partners to adapt their response by, for example, delivering radio learning programmes reaching out to 1.9 million children, including those in IDP camps and host communities.
In April, the humanitarian community mourned the death of an aid worker, who was working as a nurse in Pulka, who had contracted COVID-19. The Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria extended condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the aid worker, which also marked the first case recorded in Borno State. Health partners are working closely with the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Borno State Government, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, to contain the spread of virus by establishing isolation centres, contact tracing, and bolstering measures to prevent the spread of the virus and protect IDPs and communities in Borno State.
In March and April, the hot and dry season in Nigeria led to a series of fire outbreaks in camps for internally displaced people. In one of the most severe fire outbreaks which happened in International Secondary School IDP Camp in Ngala, Borno State, on 16 April, fourteen people lost their lives and 300 shelters were damaged. By mid-April, some 15 fire outbreaks had been recorded since the beginning of the year affecting more than 15,000 people. Overcrowding in IDP camps across the BAY states, with shelters being built in close proximity to one another, exacerbates the risk of fire outbreaks, as well as disease outbreaks. These series of incidents, coupled with the risk of COVID-19 and other diseases spreading across IDP camps, highlights the urgent need for decongestion and expansion of camps. Humanitarian actors have developed a decongestion plan looking at priority areas outside of Borno State capital Maiduguri.
Insecurity along the Maiduguri – Monguno road, one of the main supply routes in north-central Borno, continued to impede humanitarian operations. There was an increase in the number of illegal check points set up by non-state armed groups and armed criminal gangs in March and April, with 14 such incidents recorded up from ten recorded in January and February. This continued to pose constraints and hamper the movement of humanitarian goods and alert to growing concerns that civilians and aid workers are targeted along this road.
The 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was updated to include the increase in needs as a result of COVID-19, with the number of people in need going up to 10.6 million. In 2020, the humanitarian community is aiming to reach 7.8 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance and COVID-19-specific responses with a financial appeal of $1.08 billion. The plan is currently only 14.7 per cent funded half way through the year, signaling the urgent need for increased financial support.