23 Jun 16 08 Dec 16

Nigeria: At least 24,000 displaced face dire health situation in Borno State

  • Almost one in five children suffering from deadliest form of malnutrition, 16 at immediate risk of death
  • Around six people dying every day from starvation or diarrhoea, with figures rising up to 30 people on some days
  • More than 1,200 recent graves found

A catastrophic humanitarian emergency is currently unfolding in a camp for internally displaced people in Borno State, Nigeria, according to the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

On Tuesday 21 June, an MSF medical team was able to access the town of Bama in northeast Nigeria for several hours. They found 24,000 people, including 15,000 children, sheltering in a camp located on a hospital compound.

Among these children 4,500 are under five years old.

During those few hours, the MSF medical team discovered a health crisis. A rapid nutritional screening of more than 800 children found that almost one in five (19 percent) were suffering from severe acute malnutrition — the deadliest form of malnutrition.

Risk of immediate death

Sixteen severely malnourished children were at immediate risk of death.

MSF referred them to the in-patient therapeutic feeding centre in Borno state’s capital city Maiduguri.

"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.”

480 child graves

During its assessment, the MSF team counted 1,233 cemetery graves located near the camp which had been dug in the past year.

Four-hundred-and-eighty of these graves belonged to children.

“Bama is largely closed off,” said Hatim. “We have been told that people including children there have starved to death.

"According to accounts by displaced people in Bama told to MSF new graves are appearing every day. We were told that 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, equivalent to almost six people every day. People are mainly dying from diarrhoea and malnutrition.

Medical evacuations

Between Monday 13 and Wednesday 15 June, Nigerian authorities and a local NGO organised the evacuation of 1,192 people who required medical care from the Bama area to the city of Maiduguri.

This group consisted mainly of women and children. They were placed in Camp Nursing, a camp for internally displaced people.

Of the 466 children screened by MSF medical teams at Camp Nursing, two thirds (66 percent) were emaciated, and around four in 10 (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 an inpatient capacity of 86 beds.

Find out more about MSF's work in Nigeria