22 June 2016

A malnutrition emergency is currently unfolding in a camp for internally displaced people in Borno State
Large numbers of malnourished children are being treated in medical facilities in Maiduguri Photo: MSF

A catastrophic humanitarian emergency is currently unfolding in a camp for internally displaced people in Borno State, Nigeria.

For several hours on 21 June, an MSF medical team worked in the town of Bama in northeastern Nigeria, where 24,000 people, including 15,000 children - among whom 4,500 are under five years old - are 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 centre in Maiduguri. A rapid nutritional screening of over 800 children found that 19 percent of them were suffering from severe acute malnutrition - the deadliest form of malnutrition.

"This is the first time MSF has been able to access Bama, but we already know that people's needs there are beyond critical,” said Ghada Hatim, MSF head of mission in Nigeria. “We are treating malnourished children in medical facilities in Maiduguri and our patients have witnessed and survived many horrors.”

During its assessment, the MSF team counted 1,233 graves located near the camp which had been dug in the past year. Of those graves, 480 were for children.

“Bama is largely closed off,” added Hatim. “People there, including children, have half starved to death. According to accounts by displaced people in Bama new graves are appearing daily. We were told that over 30 people were dying from hunger and illness on certain days.”  

Since 23 May, at least 188 people have died in the camp - almost six people per day - mainly from diarrhea and malnutrition.

Between 13 and 15 June, Nigerian authorities and a local NGO organised the evacuation of 1,192 people requiring medical care from the Bama area to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. This group of mostly women and children was placed in Camp Nursing, which is for internally displaced people. Of the 466 children screened by MSF medical teams at Camp Nursing, 66 percent were emaciated and 39 percent of them had a severe form of malnutrition. Upon assessment, 78 children had to be immediately hospitalised in the MSF feeding centre which has 86 beds.

MSF has been in Borno State, Maiduguri, since May 2014. It supports two hospitals and two clinics in the camps where displaced people can receive treatment free of charge.

Over the past few months, MSF has developed significant activities to provide water and acceptable hygiene conditions in some camps in Maiduguri, where it operates and continues to conduct epidemiological surveillance among these populations.

In 2015, MSF provided over 116,300 medical consultations, conducted 1,330 deliveries and supported 6,000 malnourished children.

Find out more about MSF's activities in Nigeria