An MSF staff member walks through Mbawa internally displaced people's camp, where most of the displaced were uprooted by the so-called ‘farmer-herdsmen’ conflict. Benue state, Nigeria, June 2020.


Escalating violence in Nigeria, especially in the northern states of Zamfara and Borno, led to a deterioration in the humanitarian situation, with thousands more people displaced and cut off from healthcare.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continued to assist people affected by conflict and displacement across several states while maintaining a range of general and specialist healthcare programmes. 

Displacement and violence


In northeast Nigeria – particularly in Borno state – more than a decade of conflict between the Nigerian government and non-state armed groups has taken a severe toll. The United Nations estimates that more than 2.1 million people have already been displaced,1 and the numbers continue to rise. More than a million have been completely cut off from aid for years. In 2020, as the situation deteriorated, a series of brutal mass murders and kidnappings took place, but only people living in government-controlled areas in Borno state were able to obtain assistance. In the areas we could access, we managed hospital emergency rooms, operating theatres, maternity units, and paediatric wards, providing services such as treatment for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and sexual violence, nutritional care, vaccinations, and mental health support.

An orphan with grandmother in MSF Shinkafi hospital in Zamfara state, northwest Nigeria.
MSF in Nigeria in 2020

An orphan with grandmother in MSF Shinkafi hospital

The entrance to Anka general hospital in Zamfara state, Nigeria, where MSF runs a 135-bed pediatric ward, mainly treating children suffering from malaria or malnutrition. July 2019.

In Maiduguri, we manage a 72-bed therapeutic feeding centre treating severely malnourished children with medical complications. We also run a 65-bed paediatric hospital with a specialist intensive care unit, which is the only facility of its kind providing free healthcare in Borno. At these facilities, we treated thousands of children for malaria, measles, and malnutrition in 2020. In addition, our teams provided treatment for malaria in displacement camps in Ngala and Banki, and 
delivered seasonal malaria prophylaxis in several locations across the state. We also offered specialist healthcare in Ngala to people in the town and in displacement camps. In Gwoza and Pulka, towns controlled by the Nigerian military, our teams supported emergency care in public hospitals. In both Pulka and Rann, we conducted thousands of outpatient consultations, mainly for acute diarrhoea related to a lack of clean water.


Increasing violence and banditry in the northwestern states have driven people from their homes, forcing them to lose livelihoods, food sources and access to basic services. Around 100,000 people sought safety in the Zamfaran towns of Anka, Zurmi and Shinkafi, following an upsurge in fighting in 2018. In these towns, our teams conducted medical consultations, provided treatment for malaria and admitted thousands of children to our therapeutic feeding centres. In Zamfara, we also continue to screen and treat for lead poisoning, a result of unsafe mining practices that put people, especially children, at risk. In 2020, we admitted 1,500 children for monitoring and treatment.


MSF supported several isolation facilities opened by the Ministry of Health across the country by renovating facilities, training medical staff on infection prevention and control measures, and providing treatment to patients. We also reinforced infection prevention and control measures and adapted the triage and patient flow systems in our facilities to ensure the continuity of activities. In Kano state, where COVID-19 led to the closure of many health facilities, we conducted consultations in two general healthcare centres from June onwards. Nearly half were for malaria. 

Women's Health

In Jahun general hospital in Jigawa state, we continued to offer comprehensive emergency obstetrics and neonatal care, as well as vesico vaginal surgery for obstetric fistula. A total of 205 women underwent this procedure in 2020. MSF also gave logistical, technical, and medical support to four centres providing basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care around Jahun. 


Noma is an infectious but non-contagious disease that particularly affects young children, with the infection destroying the bone and tissue of the lower half of the face if left untreated. Those who survive are left with severe disfigurement, which can only be corrected with extensive reconstructive surgery. In 2020, although COVID-19 restrictions had an impact on our noma activities, we were still able to perform surgery on 73 patients. Our care package for noma patients includes physiotherapy and nutritional support, and mental healthcare for both them and their families. MSF and the Ministry of Health also conduct outreach activities with a focus on early detection and referrals for noma patients in northwest Nigeria. 


A young woman cooks an evening meal for her family in an open-air cooking area Abagana camp.
MSF in Nigeria in 2020

Abagana camp cooking area

A young woman cooks an evening meal for her family in an open-air cooking area Abagana camp.

Benue and Rivers states

In 2020, the number of people displaced by violent clashes over land between farmers and herdsmen over land continued to rise. By the end of 2020, an estimated 197,000 people had fled their homes. Around half of them live in official camps in and around the Benue state capital, Makurdi. In 2020, MSF supported the health authorities by running a range of services in the camps, including general, reproductive and mental healthcare, nutritional support, health education, treatment for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and vaccinations.

We also assisted with the response to outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever and improved water and sanitation. When COVID-19 arrived in Benue, we triaged suspected patients and organised referrals to public facilities. In two clinics in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, we offered comprehensive healthcare to victims of sexual violence, including prophylaxis for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, vaccinations for tetanus and hepatitis B, emergency contraception, and psychological and social support.

Lassa Fever

In Ebonyi state, Lassa fever – an acute haemorrhagic illness – is endemic. In response to an outbreak, we assisted the state and federal ministries of health and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control by giving technical support, training staff, and treating patients at a teaching hospital in Abakaliki. We also raised awareness 
within the community, conducted case tracing, and decontaminated the homes of patients.

No. staff in 2020: 2,380 (FTE) » Expenditure in 2020: €45 million MSF first worked in the country: 1996

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