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Nigeria: UNFPA provides immediate support to women and girls rescued from Boko Haram

2 May 2015. Over 400 women and children held by Boko Haram armed group were reported to have been rescued by the Nigerian army at the end of April. UNFPA country office in Nigeria quickly moved to provide immediate support to the freed women and girls in Borno and Adamawa States - in the North-Eastern - and is strengthening services in anticipation of additional freed hostages as the military steps up its offensive against the insurgents.

With last week’s influx of rescued women and girls, including the 293 women and girls who were rescued on Tuesday 28 April 2015, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in close collaboration with the Borno State Ministry of Health further stepped up its support. The trained health workers were mobilized and deployed within 24 hours to the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps where they were able to provide psychosocial support counselling to the traumatized women and girls and make referrals for the most complicated cases among them. A majority of the rescued girls who were counselled are pregnant. Additional reproductive health kits and dignity kits were immediately deployed to Borno and Adamawa States for safe delivery to prevent maternal or infant death.

“Our level of preparedness enabled us to respond almost immediately,” said Mrs Ratidzai Ndhlovu, the UNFPA Representative in Nigeria. “We do not select which rescued girl to support but we support all girls, including Chibok girls, because in UNFPA, everyone counts, she continued”.

UNFPA in Nigeria has been responding to the crisis since inception and has ensured appropriate personnel are in place -including a psychosocial support expert trainer- and necessary supplies, including kits, are available to meet the physical, emotional, psychological and medical needs of the women and girls on arrival. The humanitarian response program was scaled up in 2014 to cover six States (Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Kaduna, Adamawa and Borno,). By the end of 2014, UNFPA had distributed 21,800 clean delivery kits and 17,664 female dignity kits. As a result of these supplies, by the end of the year, 16,350 women had safe deliveries in the Fund supported facilities across the six states. A total of 73 women with complications received comprehensive care, including caesarian sections, at the supported referral centres. There were no maternal deaths.

As part of the preparedness, some 121 health workers received training on psychosocial support services. Sixty doctors, midwives and nurses were trained on minimum initial service packages for reproductive health in humanitarian settings. In addition, 60 health-care providers were trained on clinical management of rape and-post abortion management and 50 midwives and nurses were trained on providing long-acting re-serviceable contraceptives, which enable these vulnerable women to avoid unintended pregnancies.

There was significant increase in reporting of sexual violence, with 123 cases reported in security posts and 45 cases in health facilities of Adamawa and Borno State. This jump in reporting is associated with increased awareness of gender-based violence resulting from community sensitization sessions carried out in camps. Also, the increased availability of trained health personnel to provide services and of supplies for treatment at the camp clinics have in turn strengthened the health systems for the continuous provision of sexual and reproductive health services in the Northeast.

In total, more than 700 traumatized people including the rescued women and girls have received psychosocial support from trained health personnel at UNFPA-supported facilities at the camps for those displaced in Borno State.

UNFPA Nigeria is preparing to extend its support even further as more women and girls are expected to be rescued in the coming days and weeks as the Nigerian military escalates its offensive to eviscerate the Boko Haram insurgency.

Boko Haram has been active in north-eastern Nigeria for the past several years, abducting a large number of men, women and girls during this time – most notably, the group of 276 schoolgirls who were seized in Chibok just over one year ago. These victims have been subjected to forced labour, sexual and psychological abuses as well as having to fight on the frontline alongside members of Boko Haram.