Rising insecurity in Nigeria leaves older people vulnerable
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with a population of over 140 million. 48% are roughly Christians, 50% practice Islam and about 2% adhere to other religions. The northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim with an estimated 5% of Christians living there.
Nigeria is beset with many problems ranging from governance issues, persistent poverty amongst the majority of the population and (more disturbing) religious conflict in the north of the country perpetuated by an extremist group Boko Haram.
The general consensus is that the activities of Boko Haram may soon reach a tipping point that could cause further violence in various parts of the country. The bomb attack in Kaduna which occurred a few days ago brings the death toll to over 770 people this year alone and raises concerns about the vulnerability of residents living in parts of the country.
Older people affected by displacement
This ongoing crisis is bound to increase the vulnerability of older people in the form of displacement from their homes, life threatening injuries to the most frail and psychological harm as they continue to live in fear for their lives.
The impact of conflict on older populations is always best viewed through the lens of disadvantage. Older people in Nigeria are particularly disadvantaged because they are unlikely to be part of the labour market and more likely to be made homeless. With limited places to turn to for help, the direct impact of losing the main provider of the household in a bomb attack or the loss of assets are risks that beset many older people.
More information on older people's situation needed
What can be done to help older people caught in the conflict?
A phone call survey like the one conducted during the Kyrgyzstan's crisis in June 2010 by HelpAge might help to draw a true picture of the situation of older people in these affected parts of the country.
Non-governmental organisations (local and international) can also play a huge part in temporarily providing housing, food and clothing for older people and their families – and with the help of the Nigerian government help them resettle in a much safer part of the country.