Over 1,200 die of starvation at Nigeria refugee camp

Thousands of refugees starve to death or die of illness at an aid camp established for people fleeing Boko Haram.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A child looks on under a makeshift tent in a camp in the village of Kidjendi near Diffa on June 19, 2016.

More than 1,200 refugees, who fled from Boko Haram, have died of starvation at an aid camp in north-east Nigeria in the past year, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said on Thursday.

Describing it as a "catastrophic humanitarian emergency", it said nearly 200 people died in the last month at the same camp.

During its visit on Tuesday to the camp in Bama, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Maiduguri, MSF found that 24,000 people including 15,000 children are sheltered at the camp.

"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.”

The shocking findings show that out of 800 children examined,19 percent suffer from “severe acute malnutrition” while 16 children are “severely malnourished” at risk of dying.

According to MSF’s report, at least 188 people died since May 23 due to diarrhoea and malnutrition.

“We have been told that people including children there have starved to death,” said Ghada Hatim, MSF’s head of mission in Nigeria. “We were told that on certain days more than 30 people have died due to hunger and illness.”

MSF counted 1,233 graves of which 480 belong to children. The graves have been dug this past year.

Boko Haram’s seven-year rebellion has displaced 2 million people in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon and killed at least 20,000.

The UN's children's agency, UNICEF, released a statement about its humanitarian aid efforts at the camp.

The agency said it has provided nutritional support to around 19,000 people.

Along with its partners, UNICEF has offered health, nutrition, water and sanitation support.

“We are seeing an average of 140 outpatients a day, providing treatment primarily for malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea; screening children for malnutrition and treating severely malnourished children; and providing Vitamin A, micronutrient supplements and deworming tablets,” the report said.

TRTWorld and agencies