13 October 2017

[BLOG] Special Youth Series: Beyond the cycle of violence

By Ibitoye Segun Emmanuel

There are 2.2 million internally displaced persons in Northern Nigeria, trapped in a brutal cycle of violence between incessant Boko Haram insurgency, community clashes, mistargeted military bombings, starvation, shortage of water and the spread of disease.  A dire humanitarian disaster – perhaps greater than Boko Haram—emerges from this, due to a collapsed medical system and lack of outside aid.


An internally-displaced person (IDP) is an individual who is forced to flee his or her home to escape risk of or exposure to armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, natural or human-made disasters, but remains within his or her country’s borders.  The global displacement rate in 2016 stands at 227.6 million, with 40.3 million attributed to violence and 6.9 million categorized as newly displaced.  Sub-Saharan Africa has about 3 million displaced persons as well as 25.8 million adults living with HIV/AIDS.  The relationship between the two cannot be overlooked; displacement remains the greatest driver of HIV/AIDS, disease, and death in Northern Nigeria.


When disaster strikes and fleeing is the only option, families are separated and those most vulnerable are exposed to violent and dangerous situations.


What if your 8-year-old daughter was left alone with the threat of traffickers kidnapping and trading her for money or sex? Could you trade her daughter in exchange for money and basic material?


Imagine your brother being forcefully drafted by militants into a war he probably won’t survive: his tiny fingers struggling against the cold, unrelenting metal of his gun the first time he fires it.


Unfortunately, these are parts of reality in Northern Nigeria as an IDP. Feel it, heavy and unwelcome, in your chest.


On a daily basis, people are helplessly displaced or killed due to insurgency, tribal and religious conflicts, political upheaval, sickness and border clashes. Displacement makes people vulnerable; they are limited to what they can carry, have no shelter for themselves and are very afraid. This vulnerability exposes them to an increased likelihood of experiencing sexual violence and coercion, rape, sudden impoverishment, inadequate access to quality health care, humiliation, beatings, and other indignities.  Women may resort to commercial or transactional sex as a negotiation strategy for survival – a desperate act that is believed to be one of the major issues that fuels the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. Many IDPs living with HIV/AIDS are neglected by government services and are left to die a preventable death.


Daily life in IDP camps is rife with suffering: inadequate access to a balanced diet, gender inequality, limited or non-existent access to quality reproductive health services and a lack of basic skills to deal with emotions make these camps volatile and dangerous. Despite the susceptibility of these camps to HIV/AIDS, access to prevention and treatment of this condition remains unfulfilled in many camps.


The conditions which people are subjected to in these camps are so unjust that there is no better comparison to them than detention centers or prison camps.  Intended to be a refuge for people displaced by violence, they have instead turned out to be a place of horror, for girls in particular.  Many girls who are already traumatized from being forced to leave their peaceful homes are statistically likely to end up becoming victims of rape and sexual exploitation, burdening them with the undeserved consequences of unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDs, and other grave health challenges.  Worse still, some camp officials are also in cahoots with traffickers of teenagers to enable this exploitation in exchange for profit.


More effort is needed from the Nigerian government to stamp out all forms of terrorism and violence and to scale-up reproductive health service intervention and resettlement programs for displaced people.  There must be an increase in funding and intersectoral collaboration with international donors and philanthropists to urgently end hunger and ensure a healthy living environment for women and children, as well as to promote wellbeing for all ages and to ensure quality education and gender equality in order to achieve a zero-HIV infection rate by 2030.


A concerted effort should be channeled towards providing urgently-needed medical aid with adequate record-keeping to prevent misappropriation of resources and funds. Furthermore, a strong political will is necessary to foster health education amongst people about sexually-transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, and inclusive conflict resolution systems should be enacted to ensure justice devoid of socio-political barriers.  All initiatives for this should be coupled with free education programs for all Nigerians inside and outside of IDP camps, in order to ensure that a major origin of violence, poor education, is quickly addressed.  With better management of IDP camps and a holistic approach to combating extremist violence, we can realize at least 80% of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (1-6 and 10-12) in our lifetime and ensure that a chance of hope is given to the hopeless, a shining light dawns on their darkness and a lasting peace is attained.


Click here to read the unabridged version of this article.

About the author

Ibitoye Segun Emmanuel | Nigeria

Ibitoye Segun Emmanuel holds a B.Tech degree in Physiology from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, an Ordinary National Diploma and a Higher National Diploma in Electrical Electronic Engineering from Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, Nigeria, a Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of Ibadan and currently running a doctoral degree (PhD) at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Segun has a passion for Public health intervention targeted at vulnerable population, especially the less privileged. Segun is a co-founder of a start-up public health consulting firm called Lifeedge, whose special focus is on Noncommunicable diseases, physical health education, community development and girl right promotion programes.

Segun has a progressive experience in public health youth advocacy, community mobilization, public enlightenment, behaviour change communication, community participation, training and resource-linking. His research cuts across noncommunicable disease prevention such as  hypertension, physical activity, diabetes and Nutrition. Reproductive health issues like family planning, Maternal Newborn and Child Health interventions, adolescent peer education on sexuality reorientation. Under five immunisation, malaria and communicable diseases such as: Hepatitis B vaccination, HIV/AIDS, PMTC, HBV, HCT, TB, as well as a peer educator coordinator among in school and out of school adolescents on various health diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancers. He has fiercely engaged the faith based organisation, traditional community stakeholders, healthcare institutions and policy actors on disease burden reduction intervention programmes using a community-centered comprehensive awareness campaign approach towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 4 and 5 in Ibadan, Nigeria.

As Every Woman Every Child seeks to create global youth engagement in all international development spaces, young writers are invited to apply for a grant with Wellbeing for Women Africa to discuss key issues affecting women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing. Pitch to WBW to influence the global conversation with a tap-tap-click of the keyboard! Engage with trending issues of Africaʼs youth and read the insights of WBW Youth Partners. Content resulting from this partnership is being published as part of a Special Youth Blog Series.