Médecins Sans Frontières nurse Isa Sadiq Bwala is just back from Rann, in northeastern Nigeria, where he went to assess people’s medical needs after an attack on the town on 14 January. Most of Rann’s residents have sought safety over the border in Bodo, Cameroon, where an MSF team is providing them with medical care.
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.
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.