Nigeria: At least 24,000 displaced people in dire health situation in Bama

Critical humanitarian needs identified for displaced in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria

Abuja — 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 was able to access the town of Bama in northeastern Nigeria, where 24,000 people, including 15,000 children (among them 4,500 under five years of age) 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 more than 800 children found that 19 percent 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 the needs of the people there are beyond critical,” said Ghada Hatim, MSF head of mission in Nigeria. “We are treating malnourished children in medical facilities in Maiduguri and see the trauma on the faces of our patients who have witnessed and survived many horrors.”

During its assessment, the MSF team counted 1,233 cemetery 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,” said Hatim. “We have been told that people there, including children, have starved to death. According to the accounts given to MSF by displaced people in Bama, new graves are appearing on a daily basis. We were told on certain days more than 30 people were dying due to hunger and illness.”  

Since 23 May, at least 188 people have died in the camp – almost six people per day – mainly from diarrhoea 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 the city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. This group of mostly women and children, was placed in the Camp Nursing internally displaced camp. Of the 466 children screened by MSF medical teams at Camp Nursing, 66 percent were emaciated, and 39 percent of these children had a severe form of malnutrition. Upon assessment, 78 children had to be immediately hospitalised in the MSF feeding centre which has inpatient capacity of 86 beds.

MSF has been present in Borno State, Nigeria, since May 2014. It supports two hospitals and two clinics in the camps where displaced people can receive treatment for free. 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 in these populations. In 2015, MSF provided more than 116,300 medical consultations, conducted 1,330 deliveries and supported 6,000 malnourished children.