Killing of Health Workers and Public Health
In a space of one week, gunmen in Nigeria killed nine female immunisation workers in Kano state and three Korean doctors in Yobe state. In some times past, gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram, attacked schools too. These killings, just a snapshot in a long series, portend a huge challenge to public health after many years of violence in northern Nigeria has left the region economically desolate. Thousands of inhabitants, business owners and investors have fled the region.
The human development index (HDI) values released in 2011 ranked Nigeria 156 out of 187 countries with an HDI of 0.459. Being a ranking based on comparisons in education, health, literacy and other parameters that contribute to quality of life, the dipping HDI should worry every one that has business, political or other interest in West Africa. The links between the violence in the north of Nigeria and the unrest in Mali are already being established. But more interesting is that both countries fall in the category of countries with low develop-ment indices. This contrasts sharply with Libya (the country whose leadership crises is fingered as cause of unrest in Mali) which is recorded as having Africa’s highest HDI of 0.755.
What are we likely to see in Nigeria? A lot is happening on the political front that will have implications for social cohesion and peace. Politicians have been linked to sponsorship and exploitation of armed gangs in most parts of Nigeria, a pervasive allegation that was lent credence to by the then National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi, who was sacked soon after making the public state-ment. Early in February 2013, there was a merger of the major opposition political parties. It is still a bit too early to speculate on how the merger will change the fortunes of these attacks.
Nevertheless, it is expected that the spate of violence would decline if the political climate is less atomised. Positive efforts geared toward counterterrorism in the region are expected to complement these political moves too. Recently, 130 cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) completed a special counterterrorism training to improve the abilities to reduce these threats, while the United States Army has nominated a general to work with the Nigerian government to devise methods for checking terror. Most importantly however, is the news of the Nigerian government’s collaboration with the government of Switzerland to block interna-tional sources of funding to terror groups. It is hoped that these measures reduce the incidences of these rampant killings that usually go unresolved.
–Odoh Diego Okenyodo