Rescued from Boko Haram but around 700 people, mainly children, are still dying

Going nowhere: About ­2.6-million people have been displaced by Boko Haram. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Going nowhere: About ­2.6-million people have been displaced by Boko Haram. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Nearly 700 people, most of them children, are receiving treatment in hospital in northeast Nigeria for severe malnutrition after being rescued from Boko Haram, the Borno state government said.

Sixty-one critically malnourished people were among 478 children, including babies, 196 women and 23 men brought to the state capital Maiduguri from Bama on Monday, it said in a statement.

The infants were “undergoing medical care arising from extreme deprivation of food”, Tuesday’s statement said, adding that the people were rescued after two years in captivity by the insurgents.

It was not immediately clear whether those taken to a special care unit had been brought from camps for internally displaced people in Bama.

Last week a civilian vigilante and a soldier based in Banki, 60km from Bama, spoke of how at least 10 people were “starving to death” every day.

Nigerian and international relief agencies were working with internally displaced people in Bama but none appeared to be in Banki, which was recaptured from Boko Haram in September last year. The vigilante said 376 people had been buried in the past three months and those still alive were like “walking corpses”.

The Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, and aid agencies have warned about acute food shortages in northeast Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region.

About 6 500 children were found to be severely malnourished at camps in Borno state last year and more than 25 000 others had “mild to moderate symptoms”, health officials said in February.

Nigeria’s government has been encouraging people to return to their homes as the military counter-insurgency regains territory from the Islamic State affiliate.

Last week, it signed an agreement with Cameroon for the return of 80 000 Nigerian refugees.

But farmlands in the mainly agricultural region have been devastated by the fighting, and homes and infrastructure have been destroyed.

Shettima said on Tuesday he had ordered a new camp to be opened in Maiduguri for more than 10 000 people rescued from the countryside around the towns of Marte and Mafa in recent days.

Unable to return home because of insurgent activity near their villages, people had been camped out under trees along the road from Maiduguri to Dikwa.

About 20 000 people have died and more than 2.6-million have been displaced since the Boko Haram conflict started in 2009.  – AFP


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