PSI Nigerian affiliates launched human rights project for IDPs in 2023

This is the first year of implementation of the Project “Unions Defending Human Rights, Climate Justice and Quality Public Services for internally displaced persons (IDPs).”

The project’s overall objective is for PSI’s health and social care sector unions in Nigeria to have strengthened their role and capacity in addressing internal displacement from the perspective of human and labour rights, climate justice and access to quality public services. The project is supported by Union to Union and the PSI Swedish affiliate ASSR.

The year was marked by a general election, electing a new President and Vice President, the House of Assembly and state level officials. Economic reforms were introduced, namely, the removal of fuel subsidy and the devaluation of the naira, leading to a rise in inflation of 22% and food inflation at 30%. Food insecurity and malnutrition has become a national emergency, particularly in the northeast regions where more than 70% of the population are poor. Conflicts and violence are widespread, ranging from terrorist attacks by the Boko Haram, ISWAP, and armed banditry, to counter insurgency measures, all of which are causing large scale displacement, poverty and insecurity especially in the rural areas. At the same time, climate disasters are becoming more intense and common such as floods and droughts, which were equally contributing to a huge number of people being displaced. At the frontlines of these conflicts and climate induced displacement are health, social care, emergency responders and other public service workers mitigating the impacts and delivering life-saving and other essential needs to IDPs and host communities.

Nigeria currently has over 8,500,000 IDPs and host to about 100,000 refugees. In 2021, the government has taken the policy of closing down the IDP camps established during the several years of the Boko Haram attacks and the counter-insurgency measures. State governments in the northeast were ordered to facilitate the return of IDPs to their localities or resettle them in host communities. However, insecurity in these places of return or resettlement remains a concern. Durable solutions undertaken by the government are inadequate and unsustainable. Meanwhile, displacements are occurring as a consequence of ongoing violence and more increasingly from climate disasters. 

Against this backdrop, the project partners, working in project teams from the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), at the national level (FCT) and in four states, namely, Borno, Yobe, Kaduna and Bayelsa, embarked on strategic activities and actions to kick-off the project. 

The Project Orientation and Planning Workshop in May provided a clear understanding and reaffirmation of the project objective (desired change) among project partners.

The National Panel Event held on 31 May urged the trade unions to incorporate new dimensions to social dialogue, especially on the issues on occupational safey and risks faced by frontline workers, security of workers, and protection of human and labour rights. Participants discussed the need to carry out interventions independent of donors, hence the question of sustainability of actions and impacts. They underscored the importance of ensuring safety, decent work and social protection for public service workers on the frontlines of disasters and displacement situations. Participants stressed the importance of well-funded public services to serve the needs of IDPs and their host communities.

The Capacity Building Workshop on Advocacy on 31 May-1 June enabled project team members to gain understanding of advocacy principles, concepts, and strategies. Participants enhanced their skills in communication, research, networking, and strategic thinking. They were empowered to become effective advocates and agents of change. The project provided union activists with new knowledge on advocacy which they can use in social dialogue, campaigns and other areas of union engagement within and beyond the project.

The Mapping and Participatory Research Training Workshop on 1-2 June built the capacity of the project partners in carrying mapping and participatory research.

The Mapping and Participatory Research implemented from June to September will bring findings and recommendations that will inform the overall project objective and in particular, the strategies under the 3 project objectives namely, objective 1 (integrating forced displacement issues into union agendas), objective 2 (advocacy and alliance building) and objective 3 (organizing). It will also provide the baseline upon which to evaluate the project at its completion phase.

The IEC Materials developed this year have contributed to raising awareness on the issue of forced displacement from the perspective of PSI, informing union members and influencing policy and decision-makers on the issue. Using these materials, PSI took the opportunity of the PSI World Congress held on 12-18 October in Geneva to advocate on global policy and to raise Congress’ awareness on the issue of forced displacement, which is a vital component of the PSI Programme of Action 2023-2028 and the Resolution on Forced Displacement in the Arab and Africa Region. 

The Advocacy and Alliance Building activities carried out from July through November at the FCT and state levels raised awareness on the role of PSI and public service workers on the issue of forced displacement, thereby placing public service workers, particularly frontline health and social care workers as important stakeholders. The meetings strengthened networking and collaboration with government and non-governmental actors and informed the project team members on the issues and challenges impacting on IDPs and frontline workers at the state level.  Affiliates contributed to both national and state advocacy on protecting the rights of IDPs, including through their participation in the National Technical Working group on IDPs.

The Capacity Building Workshops carried out in October to November in Kaduna and Bayelsa states were particularly informative for the newly recruited union members. Participants expressed that the knowledge gained is new to them and is very useful for defending their rights as frontline workers. Affiliates from Bayelsa and Kaduna states attested to the fact that the capacity building workshop was an eye-opener for them on the need for healthcare workers' voices to be represented and heard on issues of internal displacement in Nigeria. Following the workshops, participants created a collaborative platform via a state-level WhatsApp Group comprised of union members and leaders in both states in order to encourage constant engagement, advocacy and information dissemination. This continues the IDP Tracking system that the project established in the previous phase.

And finally, the Project Monitoring Meetings regularly carried out by the project teams from May to November provided team members and union leadership with an orientation to the project, including its Theory of Change, helped the project team prepare for the project activities, share information from the IDP Tracking and Monitoring Platform (WhatsApp), carry out regular risk assessment and assess impact of the strategies and activities undertaken during the year.

All these project activities benefited 801 participants, of whom 372 are women (46%).