MSF warns of large-scale humanitarian disaster in northeastern Nigeria

+500,000 people live in catastrophic and unsanitary conditions in villages, towns across resitve Borno state 

Emergency Response in Eastern Nigeria

A catastrophic humanitarian emergency is currently unfolding in a camp for internally displaced people in Borno State, Nigeria. 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, among them 4,500 under 5, were sheltered in a camp located on a hospital compound. During those few hours, the MSF medical team discovered a health crisis, referring 16 severely malnourished children at immediate risk of death to the MSF in-patient therapeutic feeding center in Maiduguri.

A rapid nutritional screening of more than 800 children found that 19 percent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition—the deadliest form of malnutrition.

MSF in Nigeria
People are queuing for screening. The displaced population in Bama camp is estimated between 10 000 to 12 000 persons. Photo: Claire Magone/MSF


The health situation is critical in several cities in Borno State in north-eastern Nigeria, where malnutrition affects a very large number of children. Between 500 000 to 800 000 people, mainly displaced or living in enclaves, receive very little food and have extremely limited access to medical care.

Since the Nigerian army took over major cities and towns in Borno State from the hands of the forces of Boko Haram, a serious deterioration in the health situation appeared during assessments by UN agencies. In Bama, the second city of Borno, MSF observed very high mortality rate. Bama is now a ghost town, accessible only with an escort of the army. The displaced population, estimated at about 10 000 people, is regrouped in a camp which is located within the walls of an abandoned hospital. Despite some food distributions and food supplements, and despite the evacuation with the help of the authorities of nearly 500 people, among the most vulnerable and sick persons, the mortality rates are more than double of the emergency threshold, according to MSF team based in Maiduguri who was able to return last week. And 15% of children suffer from severe malnutrition.

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To answer this situation, MSF sent a team to Bama to provide emergency care and install a medical post with seven observation beds. The aim is to support children and pregnant women suffering from severe acute malnutrition and transfer the most serious cases in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Other urgent intervention action to be taken: improving access to water and hygiene conditions in the camp.

Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, however, remains a city where the displaced sought refuge every day. Facing this influx of population, hospitals are saturated. Children who contracted measles could not be hospitalized in recent days. MSF will therefore also start emergency operations in Maiduguri to increase hospital capacity and continue to provide epidemiological surveillance in the increasingly numerous camps.

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