MSF has been responding to disease outbreaks and emergency health needs in Nigeria for many years, focusing on maternal and paediatric healthcare throughout the country and scaling up our activities in the northeast as vast numbers of people caught up in the conflict depend on aid to survive.
Our teams are currently responding to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
In 2019, the intensification of violence and insecurity increased humanitarian needs in Nigeria. It has been 11 years since an insurgency began in northeast Nigeria, with armed opposition groups fighting the Nigerian army. Thousands have been killed in fighting and many more by malnutrition, measles and malaria. People are unable to farm or sell their goods and mass displacement has resulted in catastrophic living conditions. Watch our video explainer on the crisis in the northeast.
Twenty per cent of all global maternal deaths due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth happen in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization. In 2019, the country’s mortality rate for under-fives was 76.8 per cent. We run the maternity and neonatal departments of Jahun general hospital, Jigawa state, and support basic obstetrics in health centres to reduce complications during pregnancy. In 2019, we assisted 13,400 births, 70 per cent of which were complicated cases.
We run mass vaccination campaigns across the country against diseases such as measles, meningitis and pneumococcal pneumonia. Our teams also provide seasonal malaria chemoprevention. In 2019, an outbreak of Lassa fever, an acute haemorrhagic illness, was declared a national emergency. In Ebonyi state, we assisted the state and federal ministries of health and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control with technical support and staff training at a teaching hospital in Abakaliki.
We support the Noma Children’s Hospital in Sokoto with specialised surgical care for patients with noma and other conditions that require reconstructive surgery. Most patients with noma ─ a disfiguring and often deadly infection ─ are children under six, whose immune systems have been weakened by malnutrition. As well as surgery, we support pre- and post-operative medical and mental care, community outreach activities, and active case finding in the region. In 2019, our staff conducted 170 surgical interventions and 530 individual mental health consultations.
We run a programme for victims of sexual and gender-based violence in Port Harcourt, Rivers state. It includes preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections, emergency contraception, counselling and psychosocial support. In 2019, we treated 1,424 new patients, 61 per cent of whom were under the age of 18.
We have been responding to lead poisoning in children in Zamfara state since the epidemic was discovered in 2010. Following a similar outbreak in Niger state in 2015, we have set up safer mining projects in both areas, working with miners to reduce their exposure to toxic lead and off-site contamination. In 2019, 938 patients in Zamfara state completed chelation therapy to remove lead from their blood.