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UN Population Fund Assisting Nigerians Rescued from Boko Haram, Many of Whom Are Pregnant

Bebé nigeriana – en

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John Burger - published on 05/06/15

Nigerian known as “global leader focused on reproductive rights" takes charge

Most of the 300 Nigerian women rescued from the clutches of Boko Haram appear to be pregnant, a Nigerian news outlet reports. And they are being cared for, among other agencies, by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which typically works to reduce pregnancies in the world.

Vanguard reported that Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UNFPA, said the agency, anticipating that the women would have been abused, had already put in place a team "to first restore the dignity of the girls, who, he said, are facing severe psychosocial trauma.”

Osotimehin said that because the women and girls spent a long time in captivity, they required "a special set of services that would facilitate their integration into society."

“What we found is that some of the women and girls that have come back actually have much more in terms of the stress they have faced, so the counselling has to be more intense and working with them one-on-one,” said Osotimehin, himself a Nigerian. “I’m glad the communities are not excommunicating them and are taking them back. That is an important therapy too. We anticipate this is going to escalate because the military intervention is continuing, we find that more people are now needing our services and we will continue.”

He explained that the UNFPA had collaborated with the federal and state governments to train 60 counsellors—people from the community who understand the people they are treatingto offer psychosocial services to the affected women and children.

“UNFPA is providing dignity for women,” he said. “In conflict and disasters, most people would only think of water and sanitation, provision of tents and housing, and food, which are all important. But women and girls have specific needs that nobody else looks after; it is only UNFPA that is doing this. We are giving psychosocial counselling. Beyond that, in the growing young people, we will always have pregnant women, but nobody segregates the needs of the pregnant women which are very important and different from the needs of the average community. We look after them, and ensure they get antenatal care and that they deliver properly and that they even get Caesarean Section when necessary.”

Osotimehin’s biography on the UNFPA website calls him a “global leader of public health, women’s  empowerment and young people, particularly focused on promoting human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as population and development.”

“His leadership and advocacy with governments and other key stakeholders will continue to focus on youth and voluntary family planning,” it says. 

Osotimehin previously served as Nigeria’s Minister for Health and also as the director-general of the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of HIV and AIDS.

In April, as the world marked the first anniversary of the abduction by Boko Haram of schoolgirls from Chibok, Osotimehin noted that the UNFPA is helping the 57 girls who had escaped.

“We are addressing the girls’ reproductive health and psychosocial needs, and we are providing one-on-one and group counselling to the families and to the Chibok community. We stand ready to support each of the remaining girls, once they are released, and to continue helping the affected communities, way after the nightmare is over. We also appeal for all persons to be released safely to rejoin their families.”

Bishop Stephen Manza of Yola, told Missionary International Service News Agency that some of the girls in the group had been abducted when they were three years old and no longer know their family name.

“The women and children are undernourished, exhausted and tried with sufferance: they will need to be fed and treated, physically even before physiologically,” the bishop said.

Some of the women spoke of others who had been stoned to death for refusing to follow their jailers when hunted down by the army troops, others of sexual violence and forced marriages with the Islamists, MISNA said.

Many of the hostages, however, are too young to speak and won’t remember their ordeals, according to the bishop.

“It will be difficult to reunite the victims with their families, because some are in shock and are unable to say where and when they were taken,” stressed the bishop. He said physical rehabilitation will be just the first part of the assistance operation being carried out by the state, in cooperation with humanitarian and religious organizations.

Reintegration into society, education and employment will be challenges, explained the bishop, but he said there is hope.

“Since September we have assisted between 3,000 and 3,500 people in the camps of the diocese, displaced from their villages by the Boko Haram advance, though many have been able to return home.”

In the weeks after the election of retired General Muhammadu Buhari as president, the Nigerian army recaptured a large part of the region that had been taken over by the so-called “caliphate." 

“Muslims and Christians lived alongside one another in respect and peace in our camps, in their own way fighting against extremism,” said Bishop Manza, defining it an example to build on in the nation.

Boko HaramIslamist MilitantsNigeria
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