Aisa Kache, 35, holding her infant son inside the GSSS camp in Bama, in Nigeria's Borno State, on August 15, 2018. Photo: NITIN GEORGE/MSF

Following the arrival of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Bama, Borno State, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has commenced emergency nutritional and paediatric activities in response to the situation at the camps.

The action is coming as a response to the bleak circumstances the IDPs are subjected to, as observed by Katja Lorenz, MSF’s representative in Abuja, a situation, which has left 13 children dead in less than two weeks in August.

According to Lorenz, “Well over 6,000 people currently sleep in the open with no protection from the heat, rains and mosquitoes. 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.”

According to a statement by MSF, lack of access to the basic necessities is having severe consequences on children arriving in the town, and the organisation urged the authorities to “provide adequate assistance for the population, before the situation deteriorates further.”

As noted by the MSF, since April 2018, more than 10,000 people have arrived at the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) camp in the town and are in poor health. The new arrivals include “displaced people 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.”

As the place attends to a new batch of arrivals on a daily basis, the 25,000-capacity camp reached maximum capacity in July, and many people have been left in the open, as there are not enough shelters to accommodate them.

Between August 2 and August 15, MSF teams reported that 33 children had died in the camp, a figure estimated by the MSF to be “alarmingly high in relation to the total number of children under five years old, which is estimated to be around 6,000.”

Children on the camp, according to the MSF, suffer malnourishment and medical complications and need urgent medical attention, “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.”

The statement continued: “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 August 1 and 12, MSF had to refer 26 patients to its own paediatric hospital in Maiduguri.”

To address the issue, Lorenz said: "Measures must be urgently taken to avoid overcrowding and ensure dignified living conditions. Despite the presence of government agencies and international humanitarian organisations in Bama, the health and nutrition situation has been allowed to deteriorate up to the current crisis point. Measures must be urgently taken to avoid overcrowding and ensure dignified living conditions in the GSSS camp. Secondary and emergency healthcare for both IDPs and the resident population must be scaled up as quickly as possible.”

On August 16, MSF launched inpatient services for severely malnourished children under five years old, as well as paediatric care for patients under 15 with severe malaria and other diseases, in a facility with a capacity of 30 beds.

The MSF’s action, according to the statement is “only a short-term response to the critical humanitarian situation in Bama, until the level of assistance is scaled up,” just as the organisation called “on authorities to urgently address humanitarian needs before the situation deteriorates further.”

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