ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – Baby Zainab Mohammed, just 25 days old, is fussing and crying. She is with her mother in a health centre at the Dalori camp for people displaced by the conflict in northeast Nigeria. The baby has a slight fever and while her mother tries to comfort her, a nurse removes her clothing to help her cool down and counsels her mother to continue trying to breastfeed her.
It does not help that the outside temperature at the Dalori camp, where Zainab and her mother now live, has already reached 43 degrees centigrade.
Zainab is one of the 21 babies in the ward for infants. All born into the conflict that has displaced more than two million people – more than half of them children – in Nigeria and surrounding countries since 2009. The Dalori camp, located some 15 kilometres outside the city of Maiduguri, is currently home to more than 30,000 of those uprooted by the violence.
Zainab’s mother, Amina, fled her town when insurgents attacked and took it over. She was pregnant at the time and was fortunate to find transport to bring her to the Dalori camp, although, she recalls, others were not so lucky. Several pregnant women gave birth on the long trek to the camp – and several others didn’t make it at all, succumbing to fatigue and ill health.
Thanks to a generous grant to UNICEF from the government and people of Japan, the Dalori camp has a fully-functioning health facility and when her time came, Amina was able to give birth safely there. With Japanese funding last year, UNICEF and its partners were able to provide primary health care services in 108 health facilities in the parts of Nigeria most affected by the conflict.
UNICEF uses the funds to establish, equip and stock the health facilities – both in the formal camps for the displaced and in the local communities that also host hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
There is a special antenatal and delivery room at the clinic in the Dalori camp and this is where 40-year-old Amina delivered Zainab. “I see her as a kind of consolation for my grandfather and my brother, who were killed by Boko Haram,” she says, as Zainab finally calms and begins to take her mother’s milk.
Despite the temporary high temperature, which has almost returned to normal after a couple of hours, Zainab is a healthy baby, and has already had her first immunisations – also thanks to the Japanese funds. “I think a lot of people here in this camp are alive today because of these nurses,” says Amina. She would like her baby daughter to become a nurse when she grows up, she says, “Zainab should save lives too.”
Japan has just announced a further grant of US $ 4.5 million to UNICEF to provide life-saving emergency assistance for people who have been affected by the conflict in north-eastern Nigeria. The assistance will include water, sanitation and hygiene services, health and nutrition support, education and protection services for children.