Posts

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

the END FundNeglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of diseases caused by a variety of pathogens that are common in low-income regions. The World Health Organization WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorize 20 diseases as NTDs. They affect more than one billion people around the world, with more than a third of people affected by NTDs living in Africa. While about one-sixth of the world’s population suffers from at least one NTD, more attention is often brought to other diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. While these other diseases require a high level of attention, NTDs need prioritization too. The effects of NTDs can last for decades if proper care is not sought out as many have the ability to bring on permanent blindness and disfigurement. It is of the utmost importance that NTDs are addressed and one such organization putting in the work is the END Fund.

The END Fund

The END Fund is a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect the lives of people at risk of NTDs. It delivers treatments by working with local partners, understanding that these groups have regional expertise and know the needs of their area best.

The END Fund helps its partners design programs so that they can expand their capacity to collect important data regarding NTDs. Further, the END Fund provides technical support and monitors progress so its partners can fight disease in the most effective way possible.

It also collaborates with non-governmental organizations and seeks to involve all stakeholders in order to improve the lives of those at risk of contracting NTDs. The END Fund is active across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as India and Afghanistan. It has programs in Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and others.

NTDs in Nigeria

The country with the greatest prevalence of NTDs in Africa is Nigeria. With a population of 195 million people, five of the most common NTDs are present: intestinal worms, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis and trachoma. These diseases can cause severe pain that inhibits people from going about their daily lives. Children miss out on their education and adults miss out on economic opportunities. NTDs can cause the already impoverished to sink even deeper into poverty.

In 2013, the END Fund arrived in Nigeria. Two years later, it partnered with Helen Keller International to support local partners, the Amen Foundation and Mission to Save the Helpless (MITOSATH). It has since helped build the capacity of these groups so that they can respond to the issue of NTDs even stronger. It engaged with local leaders across many levels to make people aware of the treatment plans that are available. Among traditional groups, leaders took medication in front of many people to show that it was safe.

The End Fund’s Impact

In 2019 alone, the END Fund was able to treat 121 million people. The END Fund also trained 2.7 million healthcare workers between 2012 and 2019. Its workers have performed almost 31,000 surgeries during that same time period, with the treatments valued at more than $1 billion.

NTDs pose a great threat to people in developing countries. The END Fund has been able to accomplish a lot through its collaborative projects in Nigeria and across other countries. The END Fund will continue to work toward its vision of ensuring that people at risk of NTDs can live healthy lives.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

How COVID-19 Has Slowed Nigeria’s Access to MedicineNigeria, a country with both bustling cities and green plains stretching for miles, has earned the nickname “Giant of Africa.” Although Nigeria isn’t the largest country in Africa, it has the largest population with 206 million people calling it home. Even though the population in Nigeria has grown in 2020 by 2.58%, the country still has a high mortality rate and life expectancy of 54 years. Nigeria has one of the biggest HIV pandemics as well as a high risk for malaria. Access to medicine and vaccines have always been limited in Nigeria; however, COVID-19 has exacerbated the issues facing Nigeria’s healthcare system. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased restrictions on international trade, which has greatly impacted Nigeria’s pharmaceutical needs for people with pre-existing conditions, particularly those with HIV/AIDS or malaria. As 70% of Nigeria’s medical products are shipped from China and India, COVID-19 has interrupted an important part of Nigeria’s basic health needs.

Healthcare in Nigeria

Nigeria has always had trouble accessing medication as the country has a great dependency on imported products. According to Medrxiv, a server for health sciences, in 2013, only 25% of kids under the age of 2 had been vaccinated. In an attempt to secure a more efficient healthcare system, Nigeria began to manufacture its own pharmaceuticals but lately, production has been on a decline due to high prices, poor quality and a shortfall in access to medicine. Nigeria has 115 pharmaceutical manufacturers but they mainly rely on large imports from neighboring countries.

Before the virus swept across Nigeria, the country only had 350 ventilators and beds for the entire population. In April 2020, Nigeria obtained 100 more ventilators. But, what has actually been done to improve Nigeria’s basic health needs?

Changing Nigeria’s Healthcare

In 2018, four policy documents were presented to Nigeria by the Federal Minister of Health. The four policies acknowledge Nigerians need for access to medication and control of narcotics.

  1. The National Policy for Controlled Medicines — This policy, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU), aims to improve healthcare services in Nigeria. By properly training healthcare professionals, narcotics can be safely monitored for medical and scientific use while avoiding abuse. The policy ensures that Nigeria will have better access to medication so citizens do not have to silently suffer. In 2012, as reported by The Global Access to Pain Relief Initiative, Nigeria only used 0.01% of narcotics to manage pain. The UNODC states, “This was largely attributed to limited or poor quantification of annual estimates, inadequate and irregular release of funds for procurement, limited knowledge and poor attitude, or issues of fear and stigma among many healthcare workers and the general populace.”
  2. National Guidelines for Quantification of Narcotic Medicines — This policy is continuous of Nigeria’s efforts to have access to “narcotic medicines.” It is a way to know how much medicine is required to fulfill Nigeria’s basic health needs. By creating a standardized system, Nigeria can estimate which and how many narcotics are needed for the country.
  3. National Guidelines for the Estimation of Psychotropic Substances and Precursors — This policy regulates “psychotropic substances,” such as alcohol, caffeine and marijuana. These drugs, according to the UNODC, can be used for “pain management including treatment of neuropathic pain and in the management of obstetric emergencies including hemorrhage, thus critical in reducing maternal deaths.” The policy verifies that these substances are and will be used for legal use only.
  4. National Minimum Standards of Drug Dependence — In the past, Nigeria treated addiction as a psychiatric condition or mental illness. Although Nigeria does not have the data to see how many people in the country have a drug dependency, treatments of addiction are changing. The policy’s goal is to have adequate care such as “counseling, vocational and occupational rehabilitation” available across Nigeria.

According to a 2020 Statista analysis, the budget for Nigeria’s healthcare is expected to increase, eventually reaching 1477 billion Nigerian naira by 2021. This can create more opportunities for Nigeria’s healthcare system, increase access to medicine and fulfill Nigeria’s basic health needs.

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr

The EndSARS Movement in NigeriaSocial media is becoming a diversified platform that has been vital to the fight against police brutality in Nigeria. Nigerian citizens have experienced years of unjust violence by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), including armed robberies, rapes, torture and unsystematic killings. For Nigerian citizens, media censorship on television has led to the circulation of the hashtag #EndSARS on social media sites. People have taken to Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and other platforms to post news and videos of the violence incurred. Through the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, young Nigerian activists are emerging and are critical to the new wave of international awareness.

What is SARS?

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police force, was assembled in 1992 by the Nigerian Government to cope with the failings of the Nigerian Police Force. Emboldened by their power to arrest and monitor crimes, the group has increasingly used its authority to engage in dangerous tactics and fear-mongering.

Among protests and complaints, Amnesty International has investigated and determined numerous unlawful killings and human rights abuses. 2015 marked the first set of promises, made by Nigerian President Buhari, to disband and restructure SARS. However, after years of promising reform to appease citizens, the government has not implemented any effective actions to deter the unit.

SARS has promoted corruption and violence toward citizens, especially against an evolving population of youth. There are many reports of youth being harassed by SARS for their new technology, clothing styles, hairstyles and tattoos. In protest, Nigeria’s youth have been leaders and catalysts in organizing the #EndSARS movement. A viral video in December 2017 depicted a murder committed by SARS, and since then youth have consistently used social media to document violence done by SARS. A revival of the hashtag #EndSARS occurred in October 2020 and has created a resurgence of conversation about the issue.

Leading the International Awareness of SARS

With a limitation on media coverage of protests and SARS criticism, Nigerians have taken to social media to spread the message. Protestors have created a unified voice among supporters without endorsing an individual leader of the movement. Private citizens with their phones are the main information source and record first-hand videos of the violence. For example, an Instagram Live of protestors being shot and wounded by Nigerian military officials garnered global media coverage. The shift from traditional media to social media has been an advantage to the #EndSARS movement.

The grassroots movement has diverted from the repressive Nigerian media and toward an inclusive citizen-led campaign online. Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok are serving as major platforms for Nigerians to organize protests, volunteer and donate. Twitter users offered to pay phone bills of protestors to continue the spread of information online. Other protestors began crowdfunding donations to supply food to protestors, posting specific details relating to peaceful protests or sharing medical aid, legal aid and mental health hotlines. The variety of evidence and resources circulating on social media has bolstered the international podium of #EndSARS.

The turmoil of police brutality in Nigeria has been fiercely combatted by a new generation of youth activists. Social media has ignited an international drive to end the corruption of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Tangible change is coming about with protests and aid spread globally on social media. The Nigerian youth are using technology to their advantage and are moving to end a period of instability through the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

CCT Programs in NigeriaDespite having some of the greatest potential for development in Africa and a vast amount of resources, Nigeria remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the years, the Nigerian Government has attempted to implement various poverty alleviation strategies in order to diminish poverty. Unfortunately, little progress has been made. However, more recently, the Nigerian Government has started implementing a new strategy in order to fight the persistent poverty in the country through Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs. It is hopeful that CCT programs in Nigeria will bring lasting benefits for impoverished communities.

The Success Rates of CCT Programs

Around the world, CCT programs have become increasingly popular and have been overwhelmingly successful. Positive results have also been seen in certain regions in Africa. As explained by the World Bank, “Cash transfers targeted to the poor, particularly children and other vulnerable groups, now help millions of Africans to support their basic consumption, avoid destitution and respond to shocks.” To achieve this success, most programs focus efforts toward providing cash transfers to poor families with children. In return for these transfers, families must maintain their children’s school attendance as well as keep up with regular health checkups. As a result, the country profits through an increase in the value of its human capital.

The COPE CCT Program

Beginning in 2007, the Nigerian Government implemented the In Care of the People (COPE) CCT program, which at the time was the only nationwide government-sponsored CCT program. The program was launched across 12 Nigerian states and aimed to break intergeneration poverty through cash transfers with the conditions that households maintained their children’s school attendance of at least 80% and receive regular immunizations and healthcare visits.

In the development of COPE, one of the main goals that the Nigerian Government was hoping to achieve was to reduce poverty short-term and promote an increase in the value of human capital in the long-term. Although many Nigerian citizens benefited from the CCT program, there were complications in the execution of the program. One key example that is necessary for the program to succeed is to extend the length of time in which households participate in the program. When first implemented, the program only lasted a year for participating families. However, in order to effectively assist these households, it is important that the Nigerian Government expand the period of time in which families can benefit from the cash transfers.

The Kano State CCT Program

While the COPE CCT program was designed to impact different states across Nigeria, the Kano CCT program took a different approach. The Kano State government implemented a pilot of this CCT program from 2010 to 2012 in order to increase female school attendance and reduce female drop-out rates in the specific region.

Although the COPE CCT program did not have overwhelming success, the Kano CCT program did see some success. For example, data from the World Bank shows that the number of girls enrolled in school slightly increased from 47% in 2009 to 50%  in 2011. However, there were also unexpected decreases in rates despite the CCT program. In Kano, in 2009, 47% of girls enrolled in class one enrolled in class six in, while in 2011, only 41% of those enrolled in class one were in class six.

Regardless of conflicting outcomes, the World Bank still rates the program’s efficiency as substantial. In Kano, the savings from the CCT program were also spent on the construction of additional boreholes and toilets in the schools.

Although the program itself still needs further development, the Kano CCT program has the potential to benefit households living in poverty as well as further improve female education attendance and drop-out rates.

The Potential of CCT Programs in Nigeria

Although these CCT programs still need improvement with regard to execution and development, the programs show great promise in reducing poverty rates, breaking intergeneration cycles of poverty and increasing the value of human capital in Nigeria. This is especially hopeful considering the success of the programs in other African countries. Because these programs target the health and education of youth living in poverty, these strategies help to create a strong foundation for children, thus creating a path for them to escape poverty in the future. With continued efforts to improve and develop these CCT programs in Nigeria, there is potential to greatly expand and improve Nigeria’s economy over time and reduce poverty in the region.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Water poverty in NigeriaWater poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spreading of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially with girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefitted from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in over 100 of Nigeria’s poorest communities, which include:

  • Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where safe tap water is only acquired by 7% of the population.
  • Bauchi State where fewer than 50% of its people can access safe water and sanitation.

  • Benue State where most streams are contaminated.

  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.

  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.

  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided over three million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and US-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, they formed a partnership to launch The Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from The Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.

COVID-19

The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services, and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by The Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy The U.N.’s Global Goal 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like The Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nigeria
Nigeria is currently estimated to be the largest human trafficking hub in the world. Thousands of Nigerians, most of them women and young girls, become victims of sexual and labor exploitation each year. However, there are a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations actively working to stop this trade. These organizations are focused on monitoring human trafficking in and out of Nigeria, as well as helping rescue victims. The Devatop Centre for African Development is one of the leading human rights organizations that advocates putting an end to human trafficking in Nigeria and provides resources for victims who have been rescued.


Facts About Human Trafficking in Nigeria

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reported that human trafficking in Nigeria dates back to the 15th century when European colonists started the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the country. In 1807, the British Parliament banned the slave trade, though human trafficking continued to exist. It eventually evolved into the human trafficking we see today, where victims are coerced or threatened into sexual and labor exploitation.

In 2019, 203 cases of human trafficking were reported and investigated by NAPTIP in Nigeria. Seven hundred one suspects were arrested, but only 25 traffickers were actually convicted. Despite the low number of reported cases and the even lower number of convictions, NAPTIP rescued 1,152 victims of human trafficking in 2019. Of those victims, 18.4% were rescued from foreign travel, which promotes prostitution. Additionally, of the victims rescued, 80.6% were female and half of them were minors. A 2017 report published by the International Organization for Migration showed that “Women and unaccompanied girls of Nigeria are among the most at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation.”

Between July 2003 and December 2019, NAPTIP rescued a total of 14,688 victims of human trafficking. Of the 7,487 total reported cases they received, 3,935 were investigated and 332 convictions were made. Undercover CNN reporters, who posed as would-be migrants traveling from Nigeria to Italy in 2018, discovered that the Edo State in Nigeria is one of the largest human trafficking departure points in Africa. Many of these victims are trapped refugees who do not have enough money to finish traveling across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.


Fighting Human Trafficking in Nigeria

The Devatop Centre for African Development is a Nigerian-based advocacy organization that works towards ending human trafficking and other human rights violations. The Centre uses a combination of educational and support programs. The organization’s programs focus on informing youth about human trafficking practices, encouraging members of the community to join the fight against human trafficking and empowering survivors to make a safe and supported transition back into society.

Executive Director Joseph Osuigwe started the Devatop Centre for African Development in 2014, after being inspired by the testimonies of students and beneficiaries who experienced sexual exploitation. Osuigwe said his pilot project for the Centre was The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (TAPHOM), which uses “training, advocacy, research, media and publication to prevent human trafficking.” The first 120 young people to work under the project reached over 6,000 people in over 30 communities across Nigeria with their advocacy and successfully rescued one victim.

Today, the Centre has over 300 volunteers in 15 Nigerian states, as well as in Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Africa, said Osuigwe in an interview with The Borgen Project. The three main educational programs the Centre offers are the Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Program, the Volunteers Against Human Trafficking and the TALKAM Human Rights Project. Each of these programs trains volunteers in advocacy work. Osuigwe said the most successful project has been the TALKAM Human Rights Project, which directly engages members of the community in multiple ways.

The website www.talkam.org, which also has a mobile application offered on the Google Play Store, offers a resource where community members can report human rights abuses to NAPTIP and receive up-to-date information on human trafficking in Nigeria. The radio station Wazobia FM Abuja 99.5 hosts the TALKAM weekly radio program each weekend to discuss information about human trafficking in Nigeria and encourage citizens to join the fight against it. 

Additionally, the Centre hosts a quarterly community TALKAM Dialogue that engages “stakeholders and community representatives to discuss different human rights issues affecting the community,” said Osuigwe.


The Future of the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Nigeria

In 2018, Executive Governor of Edo State Godwin Obaseki signed the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law. This law criminalized human trafficking in Nigeria and created a legal framework in which human traffickers could be reported, investigated and convicted. Additionally, the law created the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking in Nigeria, which works towards ending human trafficking.

Governor Obaseki also promised the protection and support of human trafficking victims under the law. Human trafficking returnees now receive ₦20,000 (equivalent to approximately $50) and an “empowerment package” that includes training against human trafficking. Osuigwe told The Borgen Project that the Devatop Centre for African Development is also planning to expand the reach of the TALKAM Human Rights Project.

“We want to activate anti-human trafficking advocacy in more states in Nigeria, so as to increase more action against human trafficking,” said Osuigwe.

Nigeria is estimated to be the biggest human trafficking hub in the world. While the country may have a long way to go, organizations like the Centre and the Nigerian government are working to end human trafficking. Through community-based advocacy work and systemic change, such as the passing of the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law, there is hope for more victims to be rescued and more traffickers to be stopped.

Myranda Campanella

Photo: Flickr

Worms in Nigerian Children

Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs) are a type of macroparasitic nematode intestinal infection that transmits to humans through infected soil, more commonly known as worms. These worms typically infest soil when it comes into contact with infected fecal matter, and can directly find its way to a person’s mouth from one’s hands, unwashed vegetables, undercooked meat or infected water supplies. Since STHs become more prevalent with a lack of proper sanitation services, they affect impoverished and developing countries disproportionately more than already developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 1.5 billion people worldwide have an STH infection. In particular, worms in Nigerian children are a cause for concern.

Types of Worms

The three most common worm infections in humans are hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Hookworms are the most infectious type since their larva can hatch in the soil and penetrate the skin of whoever comes into contact with it. Infected people with a large number of worms – typically people who go for a long time without receiving treatment – have a high level of morbidity (risk of death). Those with serious infections can suffer significant malnutrition, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, general weakness and physical impairment.

Nigeria’s Struggle

Nigeria is one of the most at-risk countries for communities suffering from STH outbreaks due to improper sanitation in many urban slums and the warm, tropical climate that worms thrive in. There is a much higher prevalence of worms in Nigerian children – especially when they are of the age to attend school. Overcrowding and improper sanitation of impoverished communities are amplified when children attend school without proper waste or washing facilities. In addition, younger children do not have a fully-developed immune system yet, creating the perfect condition for worm infections.

A study conducted in the slums of Lagos City, Nigeria concluded that the overall prevalence of worms in Nigerian children was at 86.2 percent; of these children, 39.1 percent had polyparasitism. These figures are startling and daunting, but there are effective treatments and preventative measures available. The problem is making the methods of control affordable and accessible for people in poverty.

Organizations Taking Action

Organizations are taking steps to bring proper deworming treatment and sanitation to children in Nigerian slums. The WHO has a comprehensive strategy for combatting STHs in developing countries that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is trying to follow. Nigeria is trying to equip school teachers with the proper training to administer worm medicine for children in slums when they attend class. This medicine would be available to school children twice a year, or as needed in some cases.  Even children that do not have worms will be able to access this medicine in order to take precautionary measures against future infection. Even though Nigeria’s infrastructure is not in the right place to make widespread and accessible sanitation a reality for low-income communities, administering affordable medicine to children is a great first step.

The problem of sanitation has fallen to international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has conducted talks in Nigeria to educate the general populous about the importance of sanitation and taking infectious diseases seriously. With the help of the European Union, UNICEF has also installed a WASH facility in a northern Nigerian rural community. This facility consists of a solar-powered borehole that pipes up fresh well water from the ground into a 24-liter capacity tank to store the clean water safely. With further policy development and implementation measures, these facilities can expand to cover some urban slums as well.

The case of worms in Nigerian children looks bleak at the moment, but the ball is rolling with eradicating the worm epidemic. The increased sanitation of impoverished communities and more affordable and regularly-distributed medicinal treatment can very well make the dream of taking worms out of the equation for Nigerian children a reality.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Pixabay

Nigerian Curling
In Lagos, Nigeria in the mid-1800s, British colonial cartography resulted in the drawing of many inappropriate boundaries across the African region. Nigeria serves as a token example as more than 200 self-identified tribes currently exist in the populous Sub-Saharan country. The three tribes with the most influence, the Yorubas, Hausas and Igbos have demonstrated significant friction since the country’s freedom from British rule in 1960. This perpetual conflict is so serious that it even helped spark an attempt of eastern secession in 1967 known as the Biafran War or the Nigerian Civil War. Luckily, Nigerian curling may serve a purpose in unifying the country.

Sport: The Great Unifier

Beacons of hope still shine over the quest for national unity through organizations that promote cooperation and Nigerian pride. Nigerians universally accept one unifier which is sports. Nigeria’s humid climate might seem to render its winter-sports participation impossible. Yet despite these climate restrictions, Nigeria presented both a women’s bobsled team and a skeleton racer at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. For the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, Nigeria hopes to yield a curling team in addition to its aforementioned fleet. The Nigerian Curling Federation, approved by the World Curling Federation in 2018, is actively making these dreams a reality.

Curling and other sports, in general, have the potential to increase national pride while decreasing tribal pride, the latter of which is a significant roadblock in Nigerian attempts towards national unity. There is a normalization of stereotypes about the respective tribes, which feeds large cultural prejudices on each side. This adds to an overarching sense of hostility between the different ethnic groups in the country, which has historically manifested itself in violence as serious as the killing of more 40 people in street-fighting riots between the Yorubas and the Hausas in 1999. As Rachel Odusanya writes, “tribes can misunderstand each other because of their different worldviews, and this is one of the biggest social problems in Nigeria nowadays.”

Christopher Neimeth, Social Injustice and Poverty

This dream involves more than just curling through, as it contains the potential to advance a much-needed togetherness for the Nigerian people. To dig deeper, The Borgen Project spoke to Christopher Neimeth, a member of the curling team who lives in America but has Nigerian citizenship. Not so long ago, he traveled to Lagos, Nigeria’s queen city, with his father to help the rising club gain traction by delivering curling clinics. Neimeth, whose father has Nigerian origins, is sharing his affinity for the sport bearing the positive social implications behind it in mind.

When asked how he thought sports, particularly curling, could remedy some of the social injustice so tightly wound in Nigeria’s current social climate, Neimeth responded optimistically. He conceded that his upbringing in America naturally makes it impossible to grasp the true extent of its cultural issues, but he still believes curling offers a lot to the country. Through the amalgamating nature of sports, Neimeth argues that curling presents a unique opportunity to promote a sense of national pride, while simultaneously creating opportunities for the athletes through travel, professional opportunities and sponsorships, etc.

Additionally, the presence of sports can help reduce the high stress that is an inherent byproduct of extreme poverty. In a country like Nigeria, where more than 86 million people currently live in conditions of extreme poverty, programs like this are important to sustain hope and positive environments. The Nigerian Curling Federation’s clinics provide a safe space for youth that may otherwise turn to crime or drug use.

The underdog premise behind a Nigerian curling team appearing in the 2022 Olympics could amplify the country’s excitement, dismantling previously fortressed barriers between the country’s different peoples.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr