Operation Focus Relief






flag of Nigeria
The Nigerian flag became official upon independence from Britain on Oct. 1, 1960. The flag design is purposefully simple in order not to favor the symbolism of any particular ethnic or religious group. Agriculture is represented by the green stripes while unity and peace are symbolized by the white stripe.

Location of Nigeria Ethnic Composition
Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Form of government: multiparty republic.

Head of state and government: Chairman assisted by Provisional Ruling Council.

Population (1998): 110,532,000.

Population projection: (2000) 117,171,000; (2010) 150,274,000.

Natural increase rate per 1,000 population (1990-95): 30.0 (world avg. 15.7).

Gross national product (1996): U.S.$27,599,000,000 (U.S.$240 per capita).

Land use (1994): forest 15.7%; pasture 43.9%; agriculture 35.9%; other 4.5%.

General Information

Nigeria is located in west-central Africa. It spans four climatic regions of West Africa: a narrow coastal belt of mangrove swamp; a somewhat wider section of rolling hills and tropical rain forest; a still larger dry central plateau, with much open woodland and savanna; and a strip of semi-desert on the fringes of the Sahara. The temperature is high year round and is frequently accompanied by high humidity in low-lying and coastal areas.

Nigeria is among the most impoverished of all developing countries. Adequate private medical care is available in Lagos and Abuja but is not up to the standards of industrialized countries. Medical care is substandard outside major cities.

Ethnic groups: Nigeria, which is Africa's most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Religions: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%

Languages: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57.1%
male: 67.3%
female: 47.3% (1995 est.)

Government type: republic transitioning from military to civilian rule

Capital: Abuja
note: on 12 December 1991 the capital was officially moved from Lagos to Abuja; many government offices remain in Lagos pending completion of facilities in Abuja

Economy - overview: The oil-rich Nigerian economy, long hobbled by political instability, corruption, and poor macroeconomic management, is undergoing substantial economic reform under the new civilian administration. Nigeria's former military rulers failed to diversify the economy away from overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector, which provides 20% of GDP, 95% of foreign exchange earnings, and about 65% of budgetary revenues. The largely subsistence agricultural sector has not kept up with rapid population growth, and Nigeria, once a large net exporter of food, now must import food. In 2000, Nigeria is likely to receive a debt-restructuring deal with the Paris club and a $1 billion loan from the IMF, both contingent on economic reforms. Increased foreign investment combined with high world oil prices should push growth to over 5% in 2000-01.

Industries: crude oil, coal, tin, columbite, palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber, wood, hides and skins, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food products, footwear, chemicals, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, steel

Agriculture - products: cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava (tapioca), yams, rubber; cattle, sheep, goats, pigs; timber; fish

total: 194,394 km
paved: 60,068 km (including 1,194 km of expressways)
unpaved: 134,326 km (1998 est.)
note: many of the roads reported as paved may be graveled; because of poor maintenance and years of heavy freight traffic (in part the result of the failure of the railroad system), much of the road system is barely usable

Crime Information: Violent crime affecting foreigners is a serious problem, especially in Lagos and the southern half of the country. Visitors and resident Americans report armed muggings, assaults, burglary, kidnappings, carjackings and extortion, often involving violence. Carjackings, roadblock robberies and armed break-ins occur often; assailants sometimes shoot victims for no apparent reason. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. While tighter security measures have largely eliminated the danger of pickpockets and con artists inside Murtala Muhammed Airport, such persons are still commonly found outside the terminal building in the parking lot.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Nigeria. Nigeria has limited tourist facilities, and conditions pose considerable risks to travelers. Violent crime, committed by ordinary criminals, as well as by persons in police and military uniforms, can occur throughout the country. Kidnapping for ransom of persons associated with the petroleum sector, including U.S. citizens, remains common in the Niger Delta area.

Use of public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided. Taxis pose risks because of the possibility of fraudulent or criminal operators and poorly maintained vehicles. Most Nigerian airlines have aging fleets, and there are valid concerns that maintenance and operational procedures may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety.

Roads are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards. There are few traffic lights or stop signs. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Gridlock is common in urban areas.

The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads. Night driving should be avoided for several reasons. Bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights. Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations which have disrupted or even blocked traffic for extended periods.

Public transportation vehicles are both unsafe and overcrowded. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they are attacked and robbed. Several of the victims have required hospitalization. The Embassy advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided.

Health Issues:

New figures released Friday show an estimated 3.8 million people became infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa during the year, bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region to 25.3 million - up a million on 1999 figures. At the same time, 2.4 million people died in Africa of AIDS in 2000.

Malaria remains the most important infectious disease and most frequent infectious cause of death for persons traveling to countries in the tropics and subtropics. Even if your exposure will be brief, such as a 1-night stay in a malarious area, you should take protective measures. It is possible to contract malaria during brief stopovers at airports in malarious zones if health officials have not taken proper measures to rid the area of mosquitoes. Airports off the main international circuit are particularly suspect.

Malaria is an infection caused by a single-celled blood parasite that is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Malaria occurs in many parts of the world, including Central and South America, Haiti, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, the Middle East, and islands of the South Pacific. The risk of malaria is highest between dusk and dawn, the time that Anopheles mosquitoes feed on humans. Malaria occasionally is acquired by drug addicts who use contaminated syringes, through blood transfusion from an infected person, or by transfer from mother to fetus during pregnancy.

There are 4 different species of malaria: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. Of the 4 species, Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous and is the only one that can lead to death if not treated promptly.

Malaria is characterized by fever and flu-like symptoms that may come and go, including chills, headache, muscle aches, and/or a vague feeling of illness. Vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and cough may occur. There may be anemia and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes). Malaria symptoms can develop as early as 7 days after being exposed and as late as 1 year or more after leaving a malarious area when use of preventive drugs has been stopped (see Preventive Therapy). If falciparum malaria is not treated properly, it can proceed to shock, lung and kidney failure, coma, and death. While illness caused by P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae is not usually life-threatening, there may be serious health risks to very young or very old persons or to those with underlying illness. If malaria is left untreated, symptoms may recur intermittently for months or even years; prolonged symptoms also may occur in those who are partially immune to P. falciparum (that is, those who have been infected on numerous occasions).

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Poor personal hygiene, poor sanitation, and intimate contact are all factors that allow for transmission of the virus, which is shed in the feces of infected persons. Most people acquire the disease by drinking fecally-contaminated water, by eating contaminated food (especially shellfish caught in contaminated water), or by ingesting the virus directly off of their own hands after touching a contaminated object (like a dirty diaper) or the hands of an infected person who failed to wash them after having a bowel movement.

The sudden onset of symptoms associated with hepatitis A includes fever, general physical discomfort, lack of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, and jaundice (a condition in which the skin, eyes and urine become abnormally yellowish). The potential severity of hepatitis A increases with the age of the infected individual, particularly for those over age 50. Most infected adults develop the usual symptoms, including jaundice. However, most children experience symptomless infections and rarely develop jaundice. About 0.3% of all reported hepatitis A cases are fatal.

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is one of several types of viruses that can cause hepatitis. There is a vaccine that will prevent HBV infection.

Hepatitis B virus infection may occur in 2 phases. The acute phase occurs just after a person becomes infected, and can last from a few weeks to several months. Some people recover after the acute phase, but others remain infected for the rest of their lives. The virus remains in their liver and blood, and they become “chronic carriers.”

Acute hepatitis B usually begins with symptoms such as loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Dark urine and jaundice (yellow eyes and skin) are also common, and skin rashes and joint pain can occur. More than half of the people infected with HBV never develop these symptoms, but some may later have long-term liver disease from their HBV infection.

HBV is passed from one person to another in blood or certain body secretions (including wound-clotting fluids, semen, vaginal discharge, saliva, tears and urine). People can acquire the disease during sexual relations or when sharing things like toothbrushes, razors or needles used to inject drugs. A baby can get HBV at birth from its mother. Health care workers may get HBV if blood from an infected patient enters through a cut or accidental needlestick. Because of the virus’ ability to survive on objects for a week or more, household contacts and childhood playmates of infected persons are at high risk.

Those people infected with HBV who become chronic carriers can spread the infection to others throughout their lifetime. They can also develop long-term liver disease such as cirrhosis (which destroys the liver) or liver cancer.

Schistosomiasis is an infection that occurs worldwide and is caused by flukes (parasites) which live and multiply in specific freshwater snails. The infected snails release large numbers of very small, free-swimming larvae which are capable of penetrating the unbroken skin of a human host. The number of flukes acquired by an individual is related to the number of water contact episodes and to the degree of body exposure. Travelers are at risk when going to an area with reported incidence of the infection and when wading or swimming in lakes or rivers in rural areas where poor sanitation and the appropriate snails are present.

Symptoms of an acute infection can begin as early as 2 to 3 weeks after water exposure. The most common symptoms are: fever, lack of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, weakness, headaches, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, nausea and cough. Heavy infections can cause chronic disease of the lung, liver, intestinal and/or urinary tracts. Diagnosis of infection is usually confirmed at about 6 to 8 weeks post infection when schistosome eggs can be found on microscopic examination of stools and urine. Safe and effective oral drugs are available for treatment of schistosomiasis.

Since there is no practical way for the traveler to distinguish infested from non-infested water, fresh water swimming in rural areas of suspected countries should be avoided. If accidental exposure to suspected water occurs, immediate and vigorous towel drying or rapid application of rubbing alcohol to the exposed areas will reduce the risk of infection. At this time there are no available drugs to be used as preventive agents.

Typhoid is a bacterial infection of the digestive tract caused by Salmonella typhi. It is spread via food and water contaminated with fecal matter from an infected human carrier. Typhoid is often transmitted by person-to-person contact, especially through food handlers.

Symptoms usually appear over the course of a month, beginning with fatigue, dull headache, intermittent fever, abdominal pain (typically in the lower-right portion), and, at times, constipation. At the end of the first week of infection, dark red “rose spots” appear on the outer portion of the upper abdomen and the lower chest.

As the illness progresses, fever becomes continuous, an unproductive cough may develop, and the infected person experiences lassitude, disorientation and sometimes delirium. As the person’s condition worsens, “pea soup” diarrhea may appear. Coma may occur, as well as intestinal bleeding.

Fever and symptoms gradually recede over the fourth week.

Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. This disease occurs in many countries in Africa and South America, and it is believed that the incidence of yellow fever is greatly underreported among local populations.

The symptoms of the first stage of the disease appear 3 to 6 days after exposure and include fever, nausea, vomiting, flushed face, constipation, stomach discomfort, headache, muscle pains (especially in the neck, back and legs), restlessness, and irritability. A remission period follows these symptoms, and mild cases of yellow fever end here.

In severe cases, the fever drops at around 2 to 5 days after onset, and a remission of several hours or days follows. The fever recurs, but the pulse remains slow, and the patient develops the classic symptoms of yellow fever, including jaundice (yellowed skin and eyes) and black, coffee-ground type vomit.

Cholera is a bacterial disease of severe dehydrating diarrhea caused by the consumption of contaminated water, milk, or food, usually due to impure water supplies and unsanitary disposal of excrement. The most common source is raw or undercooked shellfish. Person-to-person transmission is rare.

The essential medical treatment is the rapid replacement of lost body fluids and salts (electrolytes) using oral rehydration solution.

Mild and/or symptomless cases of cholera far outnumber severe cases. Severe cases begin with the explosive onset of frequent watery stools, and vomiting may also occur. These initial symptoms usually occur 1 to 3 days after exposure to the cholera bacteria (although symptoms can appear any time from a few hours to 5 days after exposure).

If untreated, an infected individual with severe symptoms becomes dehydrated with abnormally low blood pressure, subnormal temperature, muscle cramps, decreased urine output, shock, and coma.