The area of land around the mouth of the river Niger; the Niger Delta, is a region in crisis where conflict after conflict causes untold misery. The oil extracted from the Niger Delta makes Nigeria the largest oil producing country in Africa producing over US$40 billion worth of oil per year. Yet the citizens do not see the benefits of such a profitable industry – immense poverty persists in the region and conflict has erupted repeatedly. Brutal wars are considered by some to characterise the region and have involved significant repression of members of the local community.
An oil wellhead that had been leaking for weeks has caught fire – Image from Global Health Watch 2.
The most recent conflict, which began in May this year and is ongoing, was for the stated purpose of driving militias out of the area following an alleged attack on government soldiers. However it forced 2-3000 people to flee from their homes to the bush in fear for their safety. Around 1500 of those who fled are currently living in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Ogbe Ijoh, Warri. The vast majority of people in the IDP camp are women and children, as men are reportedly harassed by government soldiers as potential militants if they come forward.
Access to the IDPs is a significant problem, conditions for those in and outside the camp are very poor. The Niger Delta is made up of networks of waterways with many areas only accessible by boat. These waterways remain controlled by the government military taskforce, preventing help reaching those who need it most. The Nigerian Red Cross has been escorted by the military to the areas, however this was a number of weeks ago and they have been unable to return. The secretary of the Nigerian Red Cross in Delta state, Ecocity Egbero, said that “fear rules the Niger Delta today”. There is immediate need for emergency supplies, as well as the desperate need for long term stability in the area.
For more information of the Niger Delta see chapter C6 of Global Health Watch 2; 6: ‘Oil extraction and health in the Niger Delta’.