For two engaging days, journalists across newsrooms gathered for safety and emergency drills organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Abuja, North-Central Nigeria.
The first-aid training — held from Nov. 22 to 23 — targeted journalists who often put their lives at risk to dig up public interest stories in hard-to-reach locations. The organisers said it was pertinent to show journalists how to protect themselves and their colleagues in emergency situations.
The international humanitarian aid group says it has trained several journalists in the war-torn Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. The group also says its target is to train 150 journalists across zones in Nigeria.
The Press Attack Tracker, an initiative of the Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development (CJID), a Nigerian media think tank, tracked and verified 45 cases of harassment or physical attacks suffered by journalists in the first quarter of 2023, raising concerns about press freedom and human rights in Africa’s largest democracy. CJID noted that the number of press attacks surpassed the total for the whole of 2022 when 37 cases were reported.
Aliyu Dawobe, an official of the ICRC, noted during the training that Nigerian journalists, especially those covering humanitarian crises, violence, conflicts and riots, are even more susceptible to danger or physical attacks while carrying out their duties.
“That is why having a first aid skill is important for journalists,” he declared, noting that the training will not only equip journalists as life savers but will also help them with general safety at home and while on the field.
After a couple of sessions on becoming a first aider, the ICRC facilitators took participating journalists through a safety and emergency drill for several hours. Dramatising, one journalist lay seemingly lifeless on the floor of the hall at the BOV Hotel in Abuja. Other journalists – acting as bystanders – looked on wondering what would happen next.
In a moment, a certain journalist rushed to the scene but first ensured there was no danger lurking around. He reached out to the journalist lying helplessly on the floor. He gently shook his shoulders and let out a loud noise into his ears.
“Can you hear me?”
Silence overwhelmed the drilling hall as other journalists watched.
The supposed first aider placed his two fingers on the chin and the other palm on the forehead of the “unconscious journalist”. He also placed his left ear on the nostrils of the “casualty” and noticed he was still breathing — a proof of life.
He kept the airways open to put him in a recovery position. He did that by putting his arm with elbow bent, taking the other hand across his chest, and placing it by the left side of the victim’s cheek. He would also pull up his right leg, turning him to rest.
The “casualty” could now remain safe that way for hours waiting to be taken to the hospital.
Amaechi Odili, the ICRC’s principal trainer, told journalists that the aim of a first aider — as dramatised — is to save life and prevent casualty’s condition from getting worse or promote recovery. Odili, a health officer providing support to displaced people in Borno, also said to certify as a first aider, one must be trained by a recognised institution like the Nigerian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Saint John Ambulance and the Institute for Safety Professionals of Nigeria, among others.
He urged journalists, who were now trained to become first aiders, to be observant, time-conscious, empathetic and encouraging while dealing with a casualty. He also said a first aider must protect himself first, followed by the casualty and the bystander.
“Only a medical doctor can confirm if one is dead or not in an emergency situation,” he cautioned journalists during the session on safety and emergency.
He also trained the journalists on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), bleeding, gunshot wounds, injury from embedded objects, drowning, choking, burns and scars, bites and stings and fractures, and so on.
Nnema Okar, a journalist with Radio Benue, said there were things she took for granted as a younger person that she now understands are important to save lives.
“I have learnt so much that I can’t even say all. Above all, it has shown me to be passionate about this job, and in the case of reporting crisis, gunshots, all kinds of violence, I need to check myself and put my personal safety first,” she said.
Ahmad Araf, a journalist from Abuja-based Kode Radio, believes everyone should have the knowledge of first aid. He said when he gets back to his organisation, he will apply what he had learned from the sessions and train his colleagues on safety and emergency.
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