© Ikram N'gadi


An extremely critical health situation is unfolding in northeast Nigeria

With an estimated population of over 190 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world.

Nigeria also has one of the fastest growing economies. Petroleum and oil resources play a large role in the Nigerian economy. However, the security situation deteriorated in many areas of Nigeria in 2014.

Violence and displacement took their toll on people’s health and reduced their access to medical services. In the northeast of the country, a decade-long conflict has caused widespread suffering.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Nigeria in 1971. Our response to the Biafra conflict and ensuing famine was, in fact, the first official MSF mission after our founding.

For further updates on our work in Nigeria, follow @MSF_WestAfrica on Twitter.

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The crisis in northeast Nigeria

In northeast Nigeria, a decade of conflict between the military and armed opposition groups has taken a heavy toll.

Across the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, about 35,000 people have been killed since 2009, 1.8 million people are internally displaced, and 7.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Around 230,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, according OCHA – UN’s humanitarian body.

The following video was released in September 2017

Borno state

The conflict continues to displace people across the state and into neighbouring countries. New needs are continuously arising.

Hundreds of thousands of people remain entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival, both in the state capital Maiduguri and in isolated enclaves in the countryside controlled by the military.

People are now effectively stranded in these places with little prospect of returning home as the conflict continues.

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MSF is currently providing lifesaving medical care in permanent facilities in Maiduguri, Gwoza, Pulka, and its mobile teams are providing medical aid in Rann, Bama and Maiduguri.

Mental health

The context of protracted displacement, violence, abuse, killings, disappearances, and imprisonment has had a profound and amplifying impact on mental health and people’s psychosocial wellbeing.

Trauma is compounded by exposure to a high level of violence and by experiences of loss due to displacement, such as loss of belongings and homes, loss of family and friends, and loss of identity and status.

In Pulka, Gwoza, and Ngala, MSF counsellors treat people for depression and anxiety, as well as for post-traumatic stress and psychosomatic disorders.

Trauma is often exacerbated by a perpetual dependency on humanitarian assistance for survival and the precarious conditions in which people are often hosted.

Uncertainty over the future, associated with the desire to return home, is an added factor to daily stresses.

Areas out of reach

Very little is known about the situation for people living in areas outside military control due to access constraints such as ongoing hostilities, threats, impassable roads or restrictions for the movement of staff or goods to certain areas.

The UN estimates that 823,000 people live in these areas, but we have few hard facts about their needs. Newly arriving IDPs report and demonstrate the consequences of being deprived from access to basic assistance. We are deeply concerned about these people’s situation.


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