Voice of America (Washington, DC)

23 May 2013

Nigeria: Doctors Without Borders Shuts Clinic in Northern Nigeria

Abuja — Aid organization Doctors Without Borders says it has suspended emergency health care in Borno State, Nigeria, - the heart of an insurgency now under assault by government troops. The decision comes after five gunmen hijacked an aid vehicle on Saturday.

A couple of weeks ago, Doctors without Borders moved into Baga, a town where thousands of homes were burnt to the ground and hundreds of people were killed in April. Since then, the organization says it has been treating 80 patients a day, half of them children.

But after five gunmen hijacked one of their vehicles, stealing it, medical supplies and other equipment, Doctors without Borders says it is abandoning the project because it is too dangerous.

Vipul Chowdhary, who heads Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria, says he hoped medical teams could be safe in Borno because they clearly identified themselves as aid workers only-with no side in the conflict.

"Our car was clearly identified and we were besides the International Red Cross - the only actors present and trying to do something. We would have probably scaled up our activities after a while of looking at what the situation is. It's a pity that we had to withdraw our team," he said.

However, the mission was always dangerous. Baga town is in Borno State, one of three states currently under emergency rule, as Nigerian soldiers battle Boko Haram - an insurgent group that has killed thousands of people since it began violent operations in 2009.

In a statement mailed to reporters, Chowdhary says he is concerned the people of Borno are now "isolated from any external assistance due to the state of emergency."

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