Violence may be described as the intentional use of force to harm a human being. In recent discourse, violence has also come to be seen as including the deliberate making of social arrangements to deny human beings of their survival and well-being needs. The outcome of either kind of violence is usually physical or psychological injury, which may be fatal or nonfatal.
A World Health Organisation report has it that more than 2million people die as a result of injuries due to violence while several that survive such injuries remain permanently disabled. In addition to death and disability, violence also contribute to health consequences like depression, alcohol and substance abuse, behavioural disorder, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
It becomes obvious therefore that there is a link between violence whether direct or structural to public health. To be sure, violence rather than being seen as only a criminal problem is now globally also seen as a major public health concern.
In Nigeria, violence from cultism, armed robbery and ethnic violence are leading causes of death and disabilities. The casualties are men, women and children. However, the phenomenon is yet to be fully seen as a major public health problem.
In Nigerian cities and the Niger Delta region, ethnic and religious violence involving members of tribal communities; Christians, Muslims and government troops have randomly led to the death of many. Several others are dying instalmentally from injuries from such violence, after becoming displaced from their homes. These ethnic and religious tensions prevent some group from receiving health care and usually contribute to disparities in health status.
Domestic violence, genital mutilation, rape, unwanted pregnancies and forced abortion and the stoning-to-death of unmarried women who get pregnant, in the Northern part of Nigeria where Islamic Sharia law is in force, should also be public health concerns.
Apart from these, the misery and increasing poverty level that affect the well-being of Nigerians has also translated into violence requiring public health concern. In Nigeria, poverty contributes to violence and violence fuels poverty.
There is a low contraceptive prevalence among many. This leads to early pregnancy, short interval between births and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Nursing mothers have low susceptibility to infections, they have complication during childbirth because they are malnourished and the baby is born with a low weight for the same reason. The baby goes on to have nutrition related diseases.
Nigerian children born in such circumstances usually develop early aggression and impulsiveness. Lack of proper parental monitoring leads to association with delinquent peers, use of drugs, access to firearms and participation in violence. Consequently, one can say that the situation in Nigeria today is an attestation to findings of psychiatrists that the act of violence, itself, is a form of addiction that is more dangerous than drugs.
Given the fact that violence has become a major impediment to health system performance in Nigeria, there is an urgent need for International organisations to collaborate more with the Nigerian government and civil society organisations to establish policies and projects for violence prevention.