2020 was an extraordinary year, full of challenges, some surmountable, others unfortunately not. Individually and collectively, we have had moments of awakening, opportunities to try new approaches and reflect on where we have been to where we are going. Despite these challenges, we have shown resilience, most of it anchored in hope and a desire for a better outcome.
The pandemic laid bare the consequences of conventional development approaches, proving that they are not enough. There is a need to rethink development support tailored to a fast-changing world. Last year, through an intense period of uncertainty, IOM reprogrammed its initiatives to respond to the triple imperatives of the pandemic 1) Reduce the spread and the impact of the disease; 2) support the Federal Government of Nigeria to safeguard development gains made so far and mitigate the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts; and 3) continuity of life-saving assistance and services in emergency settings. To respond to the new reality, we challenged our way of thinking including how and where we deliver by focusing on characteristics that make us who we are. As we take stock of the year, our actions are proving their worth.
The pandemic added a new layer of complexity to our operations in the Northeast. Despite this, we continued to deliver by reaching out to our core strength, such as flexibility, responsiveness and agility while strengthening and scaling our transition and recovery efforts, accountability to affected populations and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
Though COVID-19 exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities of migrants, it opened new spaces for innovative solutions to migration challenges. In some quarters, it reminded us what is essential work and who is carrying that out. We provided comprehensive predeparture, during travel, and after arrival support to stranded migrants. We negotiated humanitarian corridors and opening of airspace, capitalising on a decentralised and flexible travel management structure and harnessed available technology to access and keep in touch with stranded migrants – including through virtual counselling, online self-registration, and electronic cash-based interventions. While these have been critical during the pandemic, these innovations will serve migrants long into the future.
The pandemic’s dramatic impacts revealed the critical need to rethink how we develop evidence-based policies and practices to manage travel in a health-secure manner. Our in-depth work around data, health and border management – specifically at points of entry – brought to the fore the importance of a multisectoral approach and multifaceted expertise. We supported the Federal Government of Nigeria with assessments at points of entry, offering advice on integrating health concerns into complex immigration and border management systems, including through the use of digital technologies. Our experiences demonstrated the need for strong investment in global health security as a key component of well-managed migration systems, as well as dialogue that addresses the links between mobility and health.
None of our success stories would be possible without the generous support of our partners. I want to thank all IOM Nigeria staff who worked tirelessly and tenaciously, some at the frontlines, in an ever-changing working environment with passion and ingenuity to support the Federal Government of Nigeria respond to the needs of its people.
Chief of Mission, IOM NIGERIA