from Africa in Transition

Health Services Collapse in Northeast Nigeria

March 13, 2014

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Recently an Agence France Press (AFP) article reported that health services have collapsed in Borno state in northeast Nigeria due to the onslaught of “Boko Haram.” AFP reports that hospitals and clinics have been attacked, and medical personnel kidnapped either for ransom or to treat wounded Boko Haram fighters. AFP also reports that Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks on pharmacies–usually Christian-owned–for looting and destruction.

In the past, Boko Haram has attacked polio immunization clinics; along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria remains one of three countries where polio is still endemic. In a 2013 study by the Polio Global Eradication Initiative the polio virus was contained in Nigeria to four northern states: Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, and Borno.

Even before Boko Haram, Borno, was one of the poorest states in Nigeria, with some of the worst health statistics. Under current conditions, it is difficult to see how the polio vaccination campaign can make much headway in Borno. Worse, if health services in the northeast do collapse Nigeria may be at risk of the polio virus spreading.

There is a dearth of information coming out about Borno. In effect, the Abuja government has imposed a news blackout, most reports are based on conversations with residents who have left. Nevertheless, it is likely that Borno is currently a health humanitarian disaster zone.