Following the deadly Boko Haram attack on the island of Karamga, Niger, on April 25, local authorities have urged thousands of people to leave the area, forcing them to abandon their villages. The majority of those displaced are Nigerian refugees who have been living on islands in Lake Chad after fleeing violence in the north of their country.
According to preliminary United Nations figures, 25,000 people have arrived in Nguigmi and Bosso, two towns located near the lake. About 1,500 more are now in a transit site in Diffa, the capital of the region. People have been arriving in critical condition. Most walked for days, leaving behind their belongings.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the few organizations assisting this vulnerable population. “The main needs of the population are food, water, health care, and shelter,” says Abdalla Hussein, MSF emergency coordinator in Diffa. “More assistance needs to arrive rapidly to help these people—they are facing a very precarious situation now.”
Since last Sunday, MSF teams in Diffa have conducted more than 900 medical consultations, mainly treating cases of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and respiratory infections. Following negotiations with authorities, several patients have been referred to the hospital in Diffa, where the MSF was already working. MSF is also providing drinking water and food.
In Nguigmi, MSF treated refugees in the town’s health center, where the organization had been working with the Ministry of Health since before the current crisis. MSF is also starting to provide health care in two settlements where the displaced population is concentrated: the airport and an area called Kimegana.
MSF teams are also doing rapid assessments with a view to expanding the response to areas in the north of Bosso, where newly displaced people from the lake area have arrived since the beginning of this month.
Between May 3 and 6, several thousand refugees were repatriated to northern Nigeria by truck.
Since December 2014, MSF has been working in the Diffa region to assist the local population and people arriving to the area after fleeing violence in northern Nigeria. MSF is currently working in Diffa and Nguigmi districts, supporting four health centers, including a maternal and child health center in the city of Diffa.