MSF Responding To Humanitarian Crisis In Northwest Nigeria State

MSF raises alarm over hunger and abuses in Zamfara, calling on the authorities for urgent attention.

Médecins Sans Frontìères (MSF) – Doctors Without Borders, an International NGO, is responding to a humanitarian crisis in Zamfara, Northwest Nigeria.  

What started as occasional clashes have developed into constant violence and kidnapping as a business, leading to thousands of people fleeing from their homes to live in the streets, camps, and unfinished buildings.

MSF, has however responded to this crisis by providing shelter for displaced persons, treatment for the injured, along with other humanitarian aid.

In a statement published on Thursday, June 3, MSF said “in the first four months of 2021, their teams have treated 10,300 children in Anka, Zurmi, and Shinkafi for severe acute malnutrition, measles, malaria, watery diarrhoea and respiratory infections. This is 54 per cent higher than in the same period last year.”

MSF manages a 39-bed malnutrition ward, an isolation tent for other diseases, and a clinic for survivors of sexual violence.

A congested pediatric inpatient ward in Anka run by MSF. Photo Credit: MSF Zamfara

People who make it to MSF medical facilities describe how the violence has gone to rack and ruin. Many displaced occupants have fled their homes taking shelter in Zamfara’s larger towns, such as Anka, where they shelter in camps with insufficient food, inadequate shelter, no access to water and healthcare facilities.

Halima, one of the displaced mothers, said to the MSF medical team that “there’s hardly any food to give to (her) children.” Two of her children are being treated for severe acute malnutrition by MSF in Anka hospital. 

“We can no longer grow crops because criminals attack our farms. Two of my children got measles, and they were growing fragile. The roads are hazardous, but I had to risk our lives and bring them to the hospital. Last time, when their elder sister got measles, I decided too late to travel by road and bring her to the hospital. She had complications, and now she is blind.”

One of Halima’s sons, battling measles. Photo credit: MSF Zamfara

In February 2021, a statement by the International Organisation Migration (IOM) said there are more than 124,000 living in Zamfara, an increase of more than 12,000 since August 2020. In Anka town alone, MSF teams have counted more than 14,000 displaced people, with around 1,599 arrivals in the past four months.

MSF’s Dr Godwin Emudanohwo, speaking from a hospital in Anka added that: “the 150 beds in MSF’s paediatric ward in Anka hospital are already full. Families tell us they won’t be able to farm for the new season, which means a new cycle of hunger. And the rainy season is yet to start when malaria and other seasonal diseases increase. People here need food, safe water and vaccinations now.” 

As a result of the violence, many women are abused sexually, leaving them in trauma.

“From January to April, our teams in Zamfara have received over 100 survivors of sexual violence. Women and sometimes men are abducted by armed men and are sexually violated for a few weeks before being returned to their community. This is in addition to the violence faced by women within the community itself,” says MSF’s Dr Noble Nma, medical activity manager in Shinkafi, where MSF runs a clinic for survivors of sexual violence.

“The lives of people in northwest Nigeria are now dominated by hunger, abuse and preventable diseases. What is happening here is a humanitarian emergency that needs urgent attention and fast and proper response. The authorities and all relevant stakeholders should assume their responsibilities towards affected communities.” says Froukje Pelsma, MSF head of mission in Nigeria.

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