October 26, 1999

Lagos, Nigeria, October 27, 1999 — The international humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today announced the start of a malaria and fever program in the oil-rich Niger Delta, the most conflict-ridden region in Nigeria. Malaria is the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in the area. The population of Bayelsa State has limited access to health care, and ethnic clashes and civil unrest are pervasive.

MSF is concerned about the situation in the Niger Delta as there are no international humanitarian non-governmental organizations operating in Bayelsa and existing health infrastructures are inadequate to meet the needs of the population. Two small medical assessment missions have led to the decision to launch a malaria intervention. Malaria is the main cause of mortality and morbidity for the 100,000 people living in this conflict-prone environment. Child mortality for this region is 200 per 1,000 per year (Source: UNICEF/Federal Government of Nigeria). One quarter of all deaths of children under one year are caused by malaria.

MSF has a long history in Nigeria. In 1987, MSF vaccinated 2.5 million Nigerians in the region around Ibadan and in Anambra State. After intervening in a large-scale meningitis epidemic in the north in 1996 and a cholera epidemic soon after, MSF has been permanently present in the country. Following these two epidemics, MSF continued working in the epidemic-prone north, with several cholera interventions in 1999 in Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, and Borno States.

In addition to the new malaria and fever program, MSF's current programs in Nigeria include: an emergency preparedness program in Kano State that will respond to meningitis, yellow fever, measles, and cholera; a cholera-prevention and treatment program in Borno State; and a health and water surveillance program in a slum area of Lagos. An aerial assessment of the recent flood damage to the Niger River valley in Niger State was just completed and determined that no medical emergency exists but the potential for epidemics as the water recedes is strong in the coming months.

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