The town of Yola in northeastern Nigeria has become a temporary home to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who are living like refugees in their own country.
Their situation is not well known although many people know about the school girls who were kidnapped from their classrooms, another incident that happened during this conflict.
There are now more than 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. The country in sub-Saharan Africa is the most populous on the continent and while technically it has the biggest economy in Africa, it also has the world’s greatest number of extremely impoverished people.
These IDPs are mostly children and women and they are living in very difficult circumstances.
This month Health Partners International of Canada, in partnership with Food For The Hungry Canada, airlifted 7 skids of medicine to Dr. Khalid Ataelmannan, a general surgeon from Canada, who is working in Nigeria with the Health and Gender Initiative Organization to distribute medical relief.
The skids contained an assortment of medicines requested by Khalid’s partner organization, including several kinds of antibiotics, cholesterol lowering medicine, treatment for ulcers and reflux, osteoporosis medication, antidepressants and more. The total value of these medicines is $1.48 million Canadian fair market value.
“Schools and clinics are among the major challenges these people face,” Khalid wrote in a report to HPIC about the last provision of medical relief when he brought 5 Humanitarian Medical Kits and 5 Mother-Child Health Kits this past spring. “
“The amount of medicines we gave them this spring is the most they had ever received,” Khalid reported. “They were very encouraged and told us that they would be able to carry out all their scheduled medical outreach programs.”
Khalid went out on an outreach day to a village with a mobile team.
“The road is not paved, the terrain is uneven and in some places sandy. We almost got stuck in the sand, which would have meant another 30 minutes to an hour trying to get out of the sand trap. Fortunately that did not happen. However, with the temperature soaring above 45oC, I cannot tell you how excited I was when the village was finally in sight,” he recalled.
The people were waiting in the nearby school waiting for Khalid and the team. They were overjoyed to see them and especially grateful for the medicines from Canada.
Khalid described the scene: “There were elderly men and women, children, young adults and pregnant and lactating teenage girls. The numbers continued to grow as the day went on with people having left home early in the morning arriving around noon after two or three hours of walking.”
“The school, which served as the venue, was in very bad shape,” Khalid said. “You can tell there is no one coming there. With the chairs wrecked, windows broken and no electricity, it was not possible to sit in the rooms when it was above 45oC outside.
“The medical outreach team is used to this. They arranged their registration, consulting and dispensing tables one after the other in the school corridor. The officer in charge of deworming the children stood under a shady tree and gave the medicine to the children. In less than 10 minutes, everything was set up, and we got going. All patients were entered into a register. The patients were then seen and received a prescription. This was taken to the pharmacy technician, who handed out the medication. It was simple and efficient and I could not help feeling very impressed with the way the team adapted to the difficult circumstances.”
The community is used to deworming programs every 6 months or so but they were so relieved to hear of the team coming with medicines. “The numbers were much greater than usual and the news had spread further,” Khalid said.
The team worked in challenging conditions but delivered health and hope to 300 people in one day!