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Nigeria: “Falling sick in Rann is almost a death sentence”

19 Apr 2017

The town of Rann in northern Nigeria was hit by an aerial bombardment on January 17. The Nigerian armed forces have claimed responsibility for the strike which killed at least 90 people and injured hundreds. Médecins Sans Frontières was providing medical care in Rann at the time of the bombardment. Teams have recently returned to deliver much-needed medical and humanitarian aid to the people there. Médecins Sans Frontières Project Coordinator Silas Adamou describes the humanitarian situation in Rann.

 “The living conditions are terrible. People are living outdoors in makeshift shelters and survive on less than five liters of water each per day. That is far below recommended standards. People have no other choice but to collect water from muddy puddles. We treat many patients for diseases like diarrhea because people get sick from drinking the water. The humanitarian situation in Rann is becoming increasingly critical as newly displaced continue to arrive. The most urgent needs now are healthcare, shelter and water. There are no functional permanent health facilities in the town and there is no capacity to treat people who need hospital care. Insecurity makes it too dangerous to travel elsewhere for care. Falling sick in Rann is almost a death sentence.

"Insecurity and remoteness make it extremely difficult for humanitarian organisations to provide assistance in Rann on a regular basis"

What is really striking is the daily influx of newly displaced people. Shelters made of straw are scattered everywhere. There is no space left in the town, there are even shelters in the middle of the road. If more people arrive, I don’t know where they will go. They bring the only valuables they have left – cooking pots and kitchen utensils – they have nothing else. Fear reigns over the whole population. Adults and children start running in panic whenever a helicopter flies over. People are afraid of further attacks from the sky and they are also afraid of Boko Haram violence. Mothers tell us how their children wake up at night and cry without reason.  Adults tell us they have difficulties sleeping as they worry about their safety and future.

Insecurity and remoteness make it extremely difficult for humanitarian organisations to provide assistance in Rann on a regular basis. Médecins Sans Frontières delivers aid only when access is possible. We conduct general health consultations, mainly for women and children. The main illnesses are linked to the living conditions and lack of water. We also screen and treat children for malnutrition and vaccinate them against measles. Our teams have been working to improve the water supply, but the needs are bigger than the relief effort. When the rainy season starts in a few months, Rann will get completely cut off again as the roads become unusable and the town becomes surrounded by swamps. Humanitarian needs are already massive, but the situation is likely to get much worse when the rains start. Rann will become an island and people will be totally trapped.”