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20.04.2020 Nigeria

Medic death first virus case in conflict-hit northeast Nigeria

By AFP
Aid workers fear the virus could prove devastating if it spreads inside the crowded camps holding hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  By AUDU MARTE (AFP/File)
LISTEN APR 20, 2020
Aid workers fear the virus could prove devastating if it spreads inside the crowded camps holding hundreds of thousands of displaced people. By AUDU MARTE (AFP/File)

Nigeria on Monday confirmed its first coronavirus case in the insurgency-hit northeast of the country, a medic with Doctors Without Borders who died from COVID-19.

The region has been ravaged by a decade-long insurgency by Boko Haram jihadists that has forced around 1.8 million people from their homes.

Aid workers fear the virus could prove devastating if it spreads inside the crowded camps holding hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said on Twitter that it had recorded one case of the disease in Borno state, the epicentre of the conflict.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement that one of its staff died on April 18 in the state capital Maiduguri "and post mortem test results indicated that they were positive for COVID-19".

The international aid group said it was supporting Nigeria's health ministry "in contact tracing".

MSF insisted it "will continue to operate, providing essential treatment for communities in Nigeria".

"In all our projects and in order to protect our staff and patients, MSF teams have strengthened infection prevention measures, hygiene facilities, infection control and the establishment of isolation spaces," it said.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the deceased health worker "had no travel history outside of Borno State and made the ultimate sacrifice".

Kallon said "humanitarian actors have adapted their way of working to prevent the spread of the virus" in the region.

"A COVID-19 treatment facility and a testing laboratory have been established in Maiduguri and a second treatment facility is being developed," he said in statement.

"Humanitarian actors are installing hand-washing stations and ensuring supply of clean water in IDP camps and vulnerable communities."

Ten years of conflict in northeast Nigeria has left the region in no state to deal with a global pandemic.

Only half of the roughly 700 health facilities in Borno state are still working and many have been damaged by the fighting.

Humanitarian workers fear increased restrictions over the virus could hamper efforts to reach over 7 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Nigeria has so far confirmed 627 infections from the novel coronavirus, with 21 deaths, across the country.

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