Medical assistance urgently needed outside northeast ‘garrison’ towns, says MSF
The Head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International programmes in Nigeria and Niger, Guillaume Baret, in its latest update on reports on the situation in northeast Nigeria yesterday said despite the presence of armed groups and restrictions imposed by the Nigerian authorities, there is more to be done to provide assistance in places the army does not control.
Northeast Nigeria has been in a state of conflict for over ten years and most of Borno State’s population is concentrated in urban zones, especially in the capital of Maiduguri where, according to estimates, over one million displaced people now live.
Armed groups – the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the JAS led by Abubacar Shekau – have strengthened their hold over rural areas in Borno and regions in Niger, Chad and Cameroon sharing borders with Nigeria but people continue to live there.
“The United Nations in Nigeria estimates 1.2 million people living in non-government controlled areas where, like most rural regions in the Sahel, essential services are sorely lacking and health care is non-existent. This is a structural problem aggravated by the conflict. People here are more vulnerable to seasonal health illnesses, like malaria that wreaks havoc throughout the rainy season, and malnutrition.”
During the lean season. Malaria and malnutrition are among the main causes of death among young children. Epidemics are also regular occurrences in these areas, and since 2017, MSF has provided assistance with outbreaks of meningitis, hepatitis E and cholera and, more recently, measles.
While needs remain substantial in areas controlled by the government, like garrison towns where troops are stationed and Borno State’s capital where most of the displaced have taken refuge, the health situation has stabilised through the provision of aid.