A severe medical emergency is unfolding in a camp for internally displaced people in Borno State, Nigeria, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
For several hours on June 21, an MSF medical team was able to access the town of Bama in northeastern Nigeria, where 24,000 people, including 15,000 children — one third of them under the age of five — are living in a camp located in a hospital compound. Bama is the second largest town in Borno State, where insurgent group Boko Haram is fighting with the Nigerian army for control of the area. The MSF medical team discovered an acute health crisis. A rapid nutritional screening of more than 800 children found that 19 perc ent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, the deadliest form of condition. Sixteen severely malnourished children at immediate risk of death were referred to the MSF in-patient therapeutic feeding centre in the city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
During its assessment, the MSF team counted 1,233 graves located near the camp that had been dug in the past year; 480 of them were children’s graves. “The needs of the population are beyond imagination“, said Ghada Hatim, MSF country director in Nigeria. “Bama is largely closed off, and the local population has sought shelter in the camp. They told us that children are starving to death, that new graves are dug almost daily. We were told that on some days, more than 30 people have died due to hunger or illness. This shows how critical the situation is, far beyond the emergency threshold.”
Since May 23, at least 188 people have died in the camp — almost six people per day — mainly from diarrhea and dehydration.
Between June 13 and 15, Nigerian authorities and a local NGO organized the evacuation of 1,192 people requiring medical care from the Bama area to Maiduguri. This group of mostly women and children was sent to "Camp Nursing”, a camp for internally displaced people. Of the 466 children screened by MSF medical teams at Camp Nursing, 66 per cent were emaciated, and 39 per cent had a severe form of malnutrition. Upon assessment, 78 children had to be immediately hospitalized in the MSF feeding center which has inpatient capacity of 86 beds.
MSF has been present in Borno State, Maiduguri, since May 2014. It supports two hospitals, two clinics, two clinics in the camps where displaced people can come see for free. Over the past few months, MSF has developed significant activities to provide water and acceptable hygiene conditions in some camps Maiduguri, where it operates and continues to conduct epidemiological surveillance in these populations. In 2015, MSF has provided more than 116,300 medical consultations, conducted 1,330 deliveries and supported 6,000 malnourished children.