11 August 2016

MSF teams referred 55 year-old Nigerian grandmother Maka for urgent medical care to Mora Hospital in Cameroon from Banki. Photo: 
Josephine Makamukanga/MSF

In late July, MSF teams referred 55 year-old Nigerian grandmother Maka for urgent medical care to Mora Hospital in Cameroon from Banki, a town 30 kilometres from the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

Maka is suffering from severe acute malnutrition, a condition rare in adults and proof of the acute food crisis the population of Banki has been experiencing for the last four months. She was accompanied by her five year-old grandson, as well as her niece who brought her own 11 month-old son. The two children were also suffering from very advanced malnutrition and needed to be admitted to hospital urgently for life-saving treatment.

Maka had lost her smile, she spoke very little and her emaciated face was devoid of any expression. Nine days after she was taken into care by MSF teams, Maka was getting better.  

“I am originally from a village outside of Banki. Violent attacks forced us to leave our village, but four months ago my family and I became trapped in Banki, unable to leave the town. I lost track of some members of my family. For four months, we were unable to leave the town, we couldn't do anything.

Life became very difficult. We received barely two kilograms of food per week, and most of the time it was rice or corn. Everybody got the same amount, whether you were on your own or if you had 10 children. I had to ration the food, because if I had cooked enough for everybody to feel full, we wouldn’t have had anything left to last us until the next food delivery.

We were entitled to one bucket of water a day, which wasn’t enough, as that one bucket of water had to be used for drinking and washing our pots and clothes. Sometimes, we didn’t even get that much. In terms of healthcare, occasionally the authorities sent in medical staff, but they never stayed in Banki for very long.

I hope that my children who are still in Banki are still receiving at least the small amount of food they are entitled to. That’s what we were promised. But what worries me most of all is the lack of security.”

Today Maka's face shows the hint of a timid smile, reflecting her sincere gratitude. However, she cannot help but worry about the future that awaits her and her family.

“I’m happy that my children and I can recover here in Mora. Once we are better, if we can get by and work a little so we can live, I will go back to my husband in Banki. But we can’t do anything. My wish is for my children and family who are still in Banki to join me here in Cameroon. We have some cooking equipment, a little food and we are fighting to survive in safety. We would also like to stay near the hospital. Even though Nigeria is our home, we are not free there and we are too scared to return.”

Find out more about MSF's work in Nigeria.