Aid workers can’t reach IDPs, but mosquitoes can

dscn0190sm.JPGWar still rages in Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta states.  IRIN reports that, “Aid agencies are unable to access an area in the Niger Delta where more than 2,000 people are believed to be hiding in the bush after a military offensive against militants forced families to flee their homes.”  These southern riverine areas have some of the highest levels of malaria transmission in the country. Those hiding in the ‘bush’ may avoid the rebels and the Nigerian military, but they cannot avoid mosquitoes.

BBC shows that the conflict is escalating. “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said it had attacked pipes for a Chevron facility in response to a military offensive.”

Even in the best of times few aid agencies reach these populations many of whose settlements are accessible only by boat. One effort was made by Médecins Sans Frontières a few years ago to bring the then new artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs to the remote villages of Bayelsa State. At the time (2002) “In Southern Ijaw, in Bayelsa, MSF resistance studies involving these front-line malaria treatments have shown 40% resistance to chloroquine and 45% resistance to SP,” but the state and federal governments were still three years away from making ACT the drug of choice.

Today three Nigeria Delta states with the greatest problems of violence are on the books of major donor programs. Rivers State is being supported by the World Bank Malaria Booster Program, and Bayelsa and Delta States are covered under the Round 4 malaria grant from the Global Fund.  Even in areas where there is not direct fighting the problem of kidnapping makes these states less than hospitable to people who hope to deliver malaria interventions.  According to the BBC, from “2006 January onwards – Militants in the Niger Delta attack pipelines and other oil facilities and kidnap foreign oil workers. The rebels demand more control over the region’s oil wealth.”

Recently the New York Times observed that, “The violence in past years has hampered the ability of companies like Shell to pump or export oil, and helped push up global oil prices. Nigeria’s oil production currently averages around 1.6 million barrels a day, up from a low of 1.2 million barrels a day in April. That’s still significantly lower than the country’s capacity, much of which remains shut down.”
Not even reduced oil production and spikes in world oil prices due to the violence in Nigeria seem enough to lead parties to find a solution that not only protects lives from human violence but also from the violence wrought by mosquitoes.

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