Courageous and tenacious, Dr Franklyn Nnakwe is a medical graduate of the prestigious University of Ibadan where he held several leadership positions amongst which was the Public Relations Officer of the Students’ Union. He is passionate about public policy and management and currently works with UNICEF in Maiduguri to bring emergency healthcare to displaced persons affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. In this interview with THE TRANSVERSE, Dr. Franklyn Nnakwe spoke on the ordeals of the Internally Displaced People (IDP)
Can we meet you?
Thank you for the opportunity. My name is Franklyn Nnakwue. I am a medical doctor currently working with UNICEF to provide healthcare to displaced people in Borno State. UNICEF has been a key player in the humanitarian response with activities in health, education, water supply and sanitation and much more. I am proud to be a part of such noble efforts. I have worked in Konduga, Kukawa and Bama Local Governments.
What is your first hand assessment of the situation in the North East?
First, I want to appreciate our military for the incredible sacrifice they make to keep us safe. We owe them a debt of gratitude and as a nation, we should do more to appreciate their heroism. Most of the local governments are now under government control and apart from pockets of resistance, the security situation is stable.
However, the scale of destruction is unimaginable. Houses, schools, electricity and phone lines etc. have been destroyed. Commercial activities have also been hampered further impoverishing the people. In Baga, for instance, where fishing is one of the major economic drivers, fishing was banned for a long period and even now that a small window has been created for fishing, transporting harvests from hinterland to the city is an arduous challenge. If we must sustain the gains that have been made, all hands must be on deck to ensure speedy and full recovery
Considering the decrepit infrastructure and the uncertainties you highlighted, what motivates you to continue to work in the region?
Frankly, it has been really tough and although, life can be merrier someplace else, we have to do our bit whenever humanity beckons. Initially, I volunteered in a displaced persons’ camp and organized medical services in the clinic that hitherto was without a doctor. Whenever I see a single malnourished child cured or care provided to one of these vulnerable people, I am filled with immeasurable satisfaction. I think it’s that feeling that I get every day on the field that continues to drive me. Moreover, there are lots of foreign nationals playing various humanitarian roles in the region. I imagine that if foreigners can leave the comfort of their countries to come work here, how much more we who are more directly affected. There should be no excuse when it comes to showing love
What is the humanitarian situation in the North-East?
According to a recent UNICEF report, a total of 1.69 million people are still displaced among the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, of which 85% are in Borno alone. About 8.5 million people are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance this year of which about half of them are children.
Tell us about the role you are currently playing?
I am in Banki, close to the border with Cameroon where I co-lead emergency health assistance to about 45,000 people and regular returnees from Cameroon. Until recently, UNICEF was the only humanitarian agency involved in health activities in Banki. The situation has remarkably been stabilized and other partner are now coming to assist. Averagely, over 700 patients are seen weekly in the outpatient department, about 200 weekly ANC visits occur and over 500 children are currently enrolled in the nutrition program with high cure rates.
How can the situation be ameliorated?
Despite the gains that have been made, there are still gaps to fill and funding is a major challenge. I want to use this medium to call on individuals, corporate organizations to contribute towards scaling the humanitarian response. Donations can be made to organizations like UNICEF with verifiable impacts on the ground. A lot of gains have been made in health but there is still so much more to do in education. Some of these displaced children have not been to school since the insurgency started. In some cases, thousands of children in entire local governments have no access to education. If we must put a final nail in the coffin of this insurgency and avert a vicious cycle, education has to be on the front burner. State governments have a massive role in this regard and we must continue to advocate that progress be made on this front.
What is the role of young people in rebuilding the North-East?
We have immense roles to play and Nigerian youths are already doing a lot. But there is so much more to be done. We can advocate for a stronger government response and the political will to put the crisis to bed. We can do better to embrace the culture of volunteerism. We can even form social enterprises to address some of the teething challenges like education. We can preach tolerance and liberty and spread freedom wherever we are. All this we can do. But even these will not be enough. Until we participate actively in politics and government and shape policies to ensure sustainable development, whatever contribution we make may end up being ephemeral.