Archive for May, 2014

It has been a month since more than two hundred girls were forcefully taken away from their school in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram – the terrorist group which has been leading callous and bloody insurgencies against the government and people of Nigeria since 2009. This abduction which has inspired the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and sparked a global outrage against the terrorist group marks a water shed in the struggle to end an insurgency that has cost the country so much in terms of lives and properties as well as its global image. While the military which in recent days has been receiving pledges of support from across the globe continues to comb areas in that axis for the girls who I remain confident will be brought home alive, one area that has not enjoyed so much prominence in public discourse on the matter is the health of the abducted girls after they’ve been brought home.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It goes without saying that our missing sisters and daughters will not be in a state of COMPLETE physical, mental and social wellbeing when they are rescued. It is important therefore that in addition to the rescue efforts, we begin to make concrete plans for their rehabilitation without which our highly commendable efforts to save the girls would not have been complete. Let me shed some light on the possible health challenges that #ChibokGirls may face. Their abduction has subjected them to an unimaginable physiological trauma and emotional instability. When released, they will most-likely suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their immediate families, schoolmates, members of their community and many concerned are also undergoing terrible mental stress and also at risk of developing PTSD and other associated adverse mental health issues. As already reported in the media, they may have been raped multiple times by their abductors. The outcome of such sexual violence could be contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS or unwanted pregnancy. In the case of unwanted pregnancy, the only option available, by our current laws, is for the girl to carry the baby till term and deliver. It’s traumatic to imagine that any of these girls will give birth to a child fathered by their abductors, but this is a possibility, except abortion laws are made less restrictive.

Furthermore, the girls may be malnourished; malnutrition weakens the immune system and would make them vulnerable to various forms of ill-health. The place they may currently be kept is not likely to be of good hygienic condition and given the terrain in that part of the country, their access to water may be limited. They are therefore prone to having skin infections, dehydration and at risk of developing kidney stones. The water available to them may be of poor quality, thereby making them vulnerable to water-borne diseases. They may be exposed to harsh weather conditions, exposed to mosquito bites and at risk of having malaria. If any of them sustains skin injury, it is at risk of being infected by tetanus. Untreated tetanus usually leads to death. The more our abducted sisters stay in captivity, the more health risks they’re exposed to.

Someone was telling me that it is inchoate to be discussing these possible health challenges when the girls are yet to be found. I argue that it is not. As a public health physician, I focus more on prevention. Our system failed to prevent the abduction of these girls; failure to make concrete plans to address possible health challenges they may encounter would amount to failing them twice. It may be disastrous if we fail to put structures in place to address the health challenges of these girls, their families, friends, schoolmates and their communities. It is the responsibility of the Government of Borno State with necessary support from the Federal Government to ensure that this happens. I advocate that trauma management machinery consisting of professionals in clinical medicine, psychiatry, psychology and all other associated fields be already put in place for this purpose.

It is noteworthy that a statement issued recently by #Choice4Life Advocates (a group of young Nigerians that promotes Women Reproductive Health and Rights) expressed concerns about the health of the girls. The group which I also belong to made a 5-point demand including the urgent passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (#VAPPbill). Passage of #VAPPbill is also a key demand of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign. It has been passed by the House of Reps and passed First Reading at the Senate. I join the call for the Senate to expedite action and #PassVAPPbill. The bill when it becomes law will provide protection for vulnerable people like children, physically challenges, women and poor people who are usually victims of violence.

As we continue to support our military with prayers to #BringBackOurGirls, I humbly request that government at all levels provide leadership and put plans in place to Restore their Health and support each of them to make #Choice4Life. God bless Nigeria.

 

Dr Laz Ude Eze is a public health expert, global health ambassador and youth development consultant. He tweets @donlaz4u.

 

 

 

 

 

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#BringBackOurGirls

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

PRESS STATEMENT ON THE MISSING CHIBOK SCHOOL GIRLS BY THE #CHOICE4LIFE ADVOCATES DATED MAY 5, 2014

Since Monday, April 14, 2014, more than 200 girls, mostly teenagers, were reportedly abducted by heavily armed men from their school in Chibok, Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. The news of this event sent ripples across the nation, and many are yet to recover from the shock of such a catastrophe. While some of the abducted girls have escaped and returned home, the exact whereabouts of the others remain unknown.

Reports regarding this event, are increasingly dominating the media, especially the new media with the launch of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Also, Nigerians, especially women and some parents of the abducted girls have taken to the streets in different states and countries around the world. They all show solidarity through protests pressurizing government to swiftly and continuously take necessary actions to ensure the girls are returned home alive.

Apparently, incessant kidnappings have recently been on the increase in Nigeria. Victims suffer untold traumatic physical, psychological and emotional consequences. In this particular case, it is imperative to note that these girls are at high risk of sexual violence. While we earnestly anticipate their quick return in order to stop the continuous abuse they may be going through, it is imperative that we consider our readiness, especially our legal and health systems, to ensure that the victims immediately commence the process of full recovery upon their return.

We recognize the challenges of handling insurgencies such as this, as we unreservedly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of our military, para-military and other security personnel towards ensuring that peace, order, and security of lives and properties is restored in Nigeria.

We commend all the efforts of well-meaning Nigerians who have toiled over the last couple of weeks, to raise awareness about the kidnapped girls, and who have worked to pressure the government to go the extra mile towards bringing our girls home.

We appreciate the support from non-Nigerians, global leaders and the international media to the campaign for government to rescue our girls and bring them back alive.

We commiserate with the families and relatives of all the kidnapped girls, assuring them that Nigerians stand as one with them through these trying times.

To this end, we, the #Choice4Life Advocates, a group of young Nigerians from diverse ethno-religious and social backgrounds across Nigeria, who use social media to advocate for non-violence and promulgation of relevant policies needed to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights of women; therefore demands that:

1. The Federal Government and the Borno State Government, through relevant security agencies, intensify and strengthen all current efforts being made towards the quick release of the girls.

2. Given the fact that our current laws on violence against persons, especially women, is insufficient in ensuring justice for the abducted girls upon their much-anticipated return, we request the National Assembly pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (#VAPPbill) without further delay so as to guarantee a robust legal framework needed to seek justice for the girls. The swift passage of the VAPP Bill will also, among others, boost the confidence of the citizens in the polity as well as serve as a legal protection of citizens against all forms of violence regardless of sex, age, culture, tribe or religion.

3. A policy on the right of every Nigerian to education should be formulated and included in our National Constitution and/or relevant documents so as to protect and guarantee the right of citizens to education regardless of cultural and religious beliefs. This is expected to take preeminence over any local, cultural, and/or religious policies, which are against right of citizens to education.

4. The education and empowerment of women should be given the adequate priority and urgent attention it requires.

5. All necessary structures and actions should be put in place immediately to forestall a repeat of this and similar incident in any part of Nigeria.

We do look forward to the earnest return of all the girls unharmed. It is time to #BringbackOurGirls Alive!

Thank you.

Signed:
1. Dr Laz Ude Eze
2. Mr Francis Anyaegbu
3. Mrs. Bukky Shonibare
4. Dr Chijioke Kaduru
5. Mr. Alkasim Abdulkadir
6. Pharm. Tolu Ogunlesi
7. Dr Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
8. Ms Busolami Tunwase
9. Mr. Akachukwu Okafor
10. Mr Kolo Kenneth Kadiri
11. Ms Oluwabusayo Sotunde
12. Mr Uche Briggs
13. Barr. Gabriel Okoro
14. Mr. Moses Nwokedi (Big Mo)
15. Dr Ugochi Nnaji
16. Mr. ‘Fisayo Soyombo
17. Dr Isa Jiddah Mohammed
18. Ms Joy Odiete (J’odie)
19. Mr. Ayodele Fanida
20. Mr. Stephen Oguntoyinbo
21. Dr Chioma Enyi
22. Engr. Stanley Azuakola
23. Mr. Kamil Alebiosu
24. Mr. Franklin C. Uzor
25. Dr Patrick Ezie
26. Mr. David Nnaji
27. Mr. Jeremiah Agenyi
28. Mr. Stanley Achonu
29. Ms Tosin Ajibade
30. Dr Hamid Adediran
31. Mazi Moses Idika
32. Mr. Uche Njoku

TIME

There’s nothing the media loves more than a good hunt. So for the past few months, news coverage has been dominated by the hunt for the missing Flight #MH370, the hunt for survivors on the South Korean ferry accident, even the hunt for 2016 presidential candidates. But when Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped more than 230 Nigerian girls from their school on the night of April 14, Wolf Blitzer and his fancy graphics were nowhere to be found.

Eighteen days ago, the girls were just high schoolers trying to get an education. Now they’ve been kidnapped by terrorists and likely sold into “marriages” to men in Chad and Cameroon.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, who runs a shelter for girls abducted by Joseph Kony’s LRA in Uganda, says that’s just a euphemism for systematic rape. “This is not marriage,” she says. “They are being given in sex slavery. This is human trafficking…

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