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A Seminar on Public Health Implications of the Internally Displaced People Amidst Covid-19

A Seminar on Public Health Implications of the Internally Displaced People Amidst Covid-19

A Seminar on Public Health Implications of the Internally Displaced People Amidst Covid-19



The World Health Organisation, on the 11th March 2020, declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and a cause for global concern (WHO, 2020). Before this declaration, Nigeria had the first case of COVID-19 and immediately activated the coronavirus emergency task force. However, as of 5th May 2020, Nigeria reported 2558 COVID-19 cases and 87 deaths. Nevertheless, there is a considerable concern whether the government is currently doing enough to contain the spread of the virus and create a safe environment for the people. Stand out among the lapses in the handling of the crisis stems from the ability to carry out tests. Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million, can barely carry out up to 1200 tests in a day (Maclean, 2020).


Effect of covid-19 on Internally displaced persons

Internally displaced people are among those likely to be particularly affected by the pandemic, owing to their circumstances (Adamu, 2020). Pursuant to the 2019 Council of Delegates Resolution 7, “Strengthening implementation of the Movement Policy on Internal Displacement”, all components of the Movement, in line with their respective mandates, will seek to ensure a holistic response to COVID-19 that considers the needs and vulnerabilities of internally displaced people:

  • Internally displaced people are more at risk of contracting COVID-19 and are more susceptible to complications, owing to cramped living conditions in camps, camp-like settings and urban slums; poor nutritional and health status; limited access to sanitation, health care and reliable information; lack of support networks; and language barriers and other social and cultural obstacles.
  • Many internally displaced people will be disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of lockdown measures, given their already precarious circumstances and heavy dependence on casual labour and/or external support (from host communities, authorities and humanitarian organizations) to meet their basic needs. As such, they will be even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including sexual violence.
  • They may be stigmatized and deliberately targeted due to their contact with foreign aid workers (perceived as carriers of the virus) or because they have come from areas with high infection rates. In some cases, the authorities may use the COVID-19 emergency to introduce restrictions targeting internally displaced people, especially those already facing stigma on the basis of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation(s), arbitrarily limiting their rights. Such measures may also entail camps being turned into de facto detention centres.
  • Internally displaced people may experience protracted displacement if plans for their voluntary return or resettlement are put on hold due to restrictions on movement and no support is provided for their temporary local integration. Restrictions on movement may undermine people’s ability to flee violence and find refuge elsewhere in their country or their right to seek asylum in other countries (e.g. blanket border closures and push-backs, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement).
  • In some countries, COVID-19 may motivate the authorities to speed up processes that are viewed (or presented) as solutions (including camp closures and relocations) but are not truly voluntary, safe and dignified. Furthermore, some internally displaced people may be compelled to return home prematurely, having lost their livelihoods, or to move away from urban centres where the virus is more likely to spread.
  • Restrictions on movement, delays in deliveries of goods (relief supplies and/or equipment), the suspension of livelihoods, food aid, cash programmes and vaccination campaigns owing to reduced access and funds, as well as concerns about the safety of staff working in camps may all hamper the ability of humanitarian organizations to help internally displaced people and respond to sudden and slow-onset emergencies, thereby creating the conditions for new or secondary displacements.

Affected area

The Northern part of Nigeria comprises of 19 states, and the people are commonly called Hausas. The education system, through the policy of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), encouraged Quran teaching in order to improve primary education in the region. A report by UNICEF 2014 reported that there are 9.5 million Almajiri children in Nigeria, making up 72 percent of the nation’s out-of-school children (Insider, 2019). Nigeria has between 13.2 million and 15 million out-of-school children, most of them in northern Nigeria.




The Nigeria government and various state governors face the problem of repatriating displaced Almajiri children in the period of COVID-19 pandemic. Then again, after repatriation, there is no evidence that these children will be resettled with their families. At this time, no one should be displaced or unsheltered, given the risk factor and contagious nature associated with COVID-19. As stated earlier, the plan to repatriate these children may not be the best course of action because it will increase the possibility of infecting people with the virus. A possible measure employable by the government is to round up all the Almajiri children in the states where they are and provide temporary camps. Providing a camp by the state governments will support head counting of the children for proper documentation. Providing camps for the Almajiri children, at the states where they currently are, will help the government in controlling the spread of COVID-19 among the children and to the general population. Camping measures mean that there will be a shelter for the children, provision of food and ultimately medical care. Medical care will be available for infected children or suspected cases if they finally tested positive.


The study recommends that the Almajiri children should receive care within the states they currently live in, and not be repatriated. Unresolved displacement of Almajiri children can only be a risk factor for the spread of COVID-19 and public health.


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