17 January 2019

Several thousand people have fled Rann in northeast Nigeria following a violent attack on the town on Monday, January 14th. Yesterday, they started arriving by foot in Bodo, Cameroon, some 7 km from Rann. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) started providing assistance in Bodo yesterday. A team consisting of medical and logistical staff have been distributing food and water, and are providing emergency medical care.  

Hugues Robert, MSF Programme Manager for Nigeria said: “Our team in Bodo estimates that some 8000 people arrived yesterday and we expect several thousand more may come today. We are preparing to assist 15,000 people with food, water and medical care over the coming days. Many were in a state of shock and were clearly distressed by what they had witnessed. Now they have lost all that they have and need absolutely everything.”

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Nigeria, Rann, attack
Several thousand people have fled Rann in northeast Nigeria following a violent attack on the town on January 14th.: Photo: MSF

Near Bodo, people have spent one night outdoors as there are no shelters. There are children and many breastfeeding and pregnant women among them.

In Rann, many parts of the town were burnt, including houses and shelters.  The market and food stores were also destroyed.  The MSF warehouse, office and pharmacy were looted and burnt to the ground. Empty boxes of medical supplies were lying scattered on the ground outside. 

MSF was able to evacuate one injured man on site, but most others fled to nearby Cameroon.

“This is truly devastating for the people in Rann”, says Robert, “They suffer endless violence. And now they have to get back on their feet once more. How many more times is this possible? The people of Borno continue to pay the price for this merciless conflict. All the warring parties must respect the safety of civilians”.   

“Rann was like a graveyard”

Doctors Without Borders nurse Isa Sadiq Bwala is just back from Rann, in northeastern Nigeria, where he went to assess people’s medical needs after the 14 January attack on the town. Most of Rann’s residents have sought safety in Bodo, Cameroon, where an MSF team is providing them with medical care.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Nigeria, Rann Attack
Isa Sadiq Bwala - MSF Nurse in Rann. Photo: MSF 

“What struck me when we arrived was the silence. Usually, Rann bustles with life, but yesterday it was eerie and quiet, like a graveyard. Usually, kids run around and play, but yesterday the only ones I saw were standing around quietly, looking anxious.

The town has been devastated and I was devastated to see it. Many parts of the town have been burnt. There was still smoke drifting in the sky and the fires were still burning in places.

I met a woman who was just back from the burial of her elderly mother, who had died inside her burning home. She burnt to death inside because she couldn’t escape the fire.  

MSF’s base, office and pharmacy have been burnt to the ground. All that’s left are piles of ashes. When I arrived, the tent where we store our equipment was still on fire. The buildings of other humanitarian organisations have also been looted and burnt. Luckily, all of our staff from Rann are safe. Several have fled to Cameroon, along with the majority of the population of Rann.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Nigeria, Rann attack
Destroyed MSF buildings. Photo: MSF 

We evacuated one man with a gunshot wound. I was told that other people had been injured too, but it seems they have left for Cameroon.

I saw a long line of people leaving for Cameroon – women, children and men, of all ages. Some had donkeys but many were just carrying their belongings. The ones I spoke to said they were leaving because they were too afraid to stay.

There is not much left for them to stay for anyway: their homes are gone and I don’t know what they would live on. The market was burnt and looted – food stores also. There is nowhere to get food from. People who don’t have any food at home will not be able to get any more.

I spoke to one of our staff members, who said the last time he ate was on the day of the attack. He hasn’t been able to find any food since.  

I nearly cried yesterday in Rann, seeing the people and seeing our staff. I am devastated.”  

Find out more aboutMSF's work in Cameroon