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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Thursday issued an 86.2 million U.S. dollar emergency appeal to respond to COVID-19 in Nigeria and its impact in the restive northeastern part of the country.

Franz Celestin, the IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission, launched the appeal that aims to support about 7.9 million displaced and host communities in the northeast region.

The IOM chief fears an outbreak of COVID-19 would exacerbate the current situation, placing further stress on disrupted health systems, and potentially overwhelm the response capacity of international humanitarian agencies.

“Given the rapidly evolving situation in Nigeria and across the world, we must ensure that the health of displaced and host communities is a central part of our response,” said Celestin.

The money will be needed for improved coordination, extra surveillance and contact tracing as well as providing access to life-saving clinical care and treatment for COVID-19, he said.

Displaced people in northeast Nigeria already face outbreaks of several deadly diseases, including cholera, malaria and measles, and over a decade violence by the extremist group Boko Haram has severely weakened the health system, Celestin said, adding more than a third of facilities have been destroyed in attacks, and there is limited access to drinking water and sanitation infrastructure. Enditem

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