Treat Disaster Victims with Dignity – NEMA

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Mr Mustapha Maihaja, the Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), says victims of all kinds of disasters must be treated with dignity.

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He made the appeal at a stakeholders “Workshop on the Development of a National Mass Fatality Response Plan for Nigeria” on Wednesday in Abuja.

Maihaja, who was represented by Mr Vincent Owan, Director, Disaster Risk Reduction, NEMA, said the meeting was aimed at developing a response plan for the identification of bodies in incidences of mass fatalities.

He said it was important to address the challenge, as most dead victims are put in body bags, kept in the morgue and given mass burial after some days due to difficulty in identifying them.

“Over the years, we have been having challenges of identifying bodies after we have mass fatalities.

“Mass fatalities result substantially in Nigeria from explosion, bombing and inter-tribal conflicts.

“Such attacks are often against the untrained, unsuspecting and unprotected civilians.

“Hence, such helpless situation brought to the fore the need to address the challenges and accord the dead the required dignity,” he said.

He noted that over the years, Nigeria had employed various discretion in mass fatalities management, resulting from lack of proper identification of victims due to absence of disaster victim identification.

“Therefore, the development of a policy document on the management of mass fatalities could not have come at a better time than now,” he said.

Ms Maryam Kashefi, the Protection Coordinator, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said it was important to protect the dignity of the dead through professional management and identification of human remains.

She added that the meeting was timely as it would help prevent people from going missing by paving way to the development of a national mass fatality handling plan.

“To resolve and prevent the issue of missing persons and to promote the families’ right to know.

“We are pleased to support the efforts of Nigerian authorities to ensure the protection and dignified management of human remains.

“This will represent a milestone in Africa and address the complexity of coordination mechanisms in situations of disasters.

“Because in the end, humanitarian management of the dead is about the caring for the living, and helping grieved families to mourn and go forward with their lives,” she said.

NAN reports that the event, which was organised in collaboration with the ICRC, had representatives from the Ministry of Health, academia as well as stakeholders in disaster management.

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