By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Touched by the health implication of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Cameroonian refugee population in Ogoja, Cross River State, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the National Commission For Refugees, Migrants And Internally Displaced Persons have adopted preventive measures against the global pandemic in the camps.
The refugee settlements are located at Adagom, and Ukende/Akpakpanga in Ogoja Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Some measures put in place by the humanitarian agencies include, the distribution of non food items, (NFIs) including soaps hand sanitizers, face masks, plastic buckets, advanced payment of allowances to the refugees and portable water supply for regular hand washing and domestic use by the population .
The UN agency has also taken steps to quarantine refugees who show symptoms of the virus with the mapping out of an isolation centre in Adagom settlement.
The agency has also acquired about a hundred thousand hectares of arable land with the support of the Ogoja local government authority to encourage the refugee population venture into farming to augment their food supply and enhance their nutrition.
The UNHCR head of sub-office ogoja, Mr Mulugeta Zewdie, who led other stakeholders to distribute the items to the population at Adagom said, the agency was partnering with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons to provide for the vulnerable population in the fight against covid-19 pandemic.
He explained that the UNHCR operates in collaboration with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons,as well as other relevant humanitarian bodies to provide succour for the poor and those in need.
Zewdie disclosed that Cross River state is playing host to over seventy-six thousand Cameroonian refugees, adding that Covid-19 has come with a great challenge on the refugee population which is very vulnerable to the pandemic.
He observed the rampaging effect of covid-19 on lives and livelihoods of the global population and assured that apart from the non food supplies, the refugees ogoja are also given food and cash interventions to alleviate their hardship.
Zewdie assured that the relevant agencies have engaged in regular sensitization of the refugee population for them to understand the danger posed by Covid-19 and measures they must adopt to avoid the spread pandemic to the refugee community.
He thanked the government of Nigeria and Cross River state for harbouring and supporting the refugees and lauded the host communities for their cooperation.
Speaking on the event the National commissio6ner for Refugees, Migrants And Internally Displaced Persons, Abuja represented by Madam Maria Edet, said the items were meant to promote hygiene and the health of the refugees especially at this challenging period of covid-19 global emergency.
She hinted that about 22, 000 beneficiaries were captured in this phase of the exercise and commended the UNHCR for the milestones recorded so far in providing for the welfare of the refugees.
She urged the refugees to always maintain social distancing, imbibe regular hand washing with soap and running water and to observe all the protocols put in place by the Federal and Cross River state government to contain the disease.
Earlier, a representative of the Head of local government administration, HOLGA, Ogoja Mr. Benji Bessong, who is also the Community Development Officer for the area said the council was partnering with the UNHCR and other relevant humanitarian agencies to cater for the refugees in Ogoja, especially with the outbreak of covid-19.
Some of the refugees who spoke with news men, expressed delight at the items, and appealed for more welfare packages to alleviate their hardship.
They also called for greater sensitization and regular education of the refugee population on pandemic to guide against the spread.
High points of the event were visit by team to the quarantine centre , inspection of water project at Mdok junction community, meant to enhance potable water supply to the junction community as well as water project at Ukende/Akpakpanga refugee settlement.