Banki: Laying the foundation for stabilization and strengthening COVID-19 response — brick by brick

Straddling the border between Northeast Nigeria and Cameroon, the garrison town of Banki has witnessed the destruction of essential infrastructure, a decrease in trade, the loss of livelihoods, and displacement of entire families since the start of the insurgency in Lake Chad Basin Region.

As one of the communities in Borno State targeted by the Regional Stabilization Facility for Lake Chad (RSF), Banki is the recipient of a set of support packages which include the building of protection fence wall which aims to prevent attacks from outside and improve the community’s security.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly complicated the situation and compounded existing vulnerabilities in the region. According to the United Nations, an outbreak in the protracted conflict and security zones of the North-East could be very damaging and set back years of hard-won gains.

In Banki, where it is estimated that more than 19% of residents live without shelter or in collective unpartitioned makeshift abodes, it is particularly challenging to implement preventative measures including sanitary and physical distancing. Its 42,000 residents, mostly internally displaced persons (IDP), live in highly congested camps with little access to water and sanitation.

The current rate of spread of COVID in Nigeria increases the risks of mass infections in settings like Banki. As decongestion of the IDP camps is one of the most urgent and efficient ways to prevent this, the Borno State Government has designated the expansion of the IDP camps as a top priority for its COVID-19 response.

With the technical support of the RSF, the Borno State Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (MRRR), the expanded fence is expected to facilitate the building of new shelters, accelerate decongestion, and help set up quarantine areas.

Providing technical support for the expansion of the wall and freeing up space within the camp, does not only meet key RSF objectives, is it is a testament to its repurposing flexibility: the extension project not only helps improve Banki’s protection from external security threats and the community’s COVID-19 preparedness, it also helps create immediate income opportunities for IDPs.

Dozens of men and women, including unemployed local youth, contribute their skills to the construction of the wall and earn a daily income as masons, carpenters, iron smelters, bricklayers, and handiwork.

“I am happy for the construction of this wall. Prior to this, we experience attacks from the insurgents, sometimes they come into the IDP camp were majority of us reside to cart away our food items and livestock. In addition to that, I am grateful for the cash for work scheme because it has provided me with earnings to cater for my family. My family and I depend on the food we get from NGOs, but this additional income helps us to supplement with what we are getting from them,” says Aliyu Umara, 35 years old and a bricklayer working on the wall construction.

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