Maiduguri — Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started emergency nutritional and paediatric activities in Bama, Borno state, in response to a critical humanitarian situation among newly arrived internally displaced people (IDPs).
Between 2 and 15 August, MSF teams reported that 33 young children had died in the camp. This figure is alarmingly high in relation to the total number of children under five years old, which is estimated to be around 6,000.
Many children are severely malnourished and suffer from medical complications - they urgently need intensive care and close medical follow-up, as the current rainy season typically sees a spike in the number of patients with malaria and diarrhoeal diseases. The lack of an inpatient nutrition and paediatric health facility in Bama is having catastrophic consequences for children.
Lack of adequate assistance, including access to shelter and healthcare, is having severe consequences for young children arriving in the town. MSF calls on authorities to urgently provide adequate assistance for the population, before the situation deteriorates further.
Since April 2018, more than 10,000 people have arrived in the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) camp in the town; many are in poor health. Newly displaced people reported fleeing areas where they were unable to sustain their livelihoods, while others reported fleeing areas where the Nigerian armed forces are conducting military operations against armed groups.
In the GSSS camp, shelter and healthcare assistance has not kept pace with the growing population and people continue to arrive every day. Intended for a maximum of 25,000 people, the camp reached capacity at the end of July - and there are not enough shelters for everyone.
"Well over 6,000 people currently sleep in the open with no protection from the heat, rains and mosquitoes," said Katja Lorenz, MSF's representative in Abuja. "People do not even have basic utensils to cook their dry food rations, and water is not available in adequate quantities to meet the minimum needs. A lot of children are already in a critical state upon arrival, and poor assistance and access to healthcare further deteriorates their condition."
At present, the only hospital in Bama, the Bama General Hospital, is not functional. Seriously ill children have to travel to Maiduguri for further treatment. However, many people in Bama cannot afford to pay for private transport to take them to the state capital. And even if they can, inpatient nutritional centres are overwhelmed. While setting up an inpatient facility in Bama, between 1 and 12 August MSF had to refer 26 patients to its own paediatric hospital in Maiduguri.