Doctors Without Borders, known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has suspended its medical activities in Rann, a town in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, and evacuated 22 Nigerian and international staff, following a deadly attack by Boko Haram on Thursday night.
Why it matters: Since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, millions of people have been displaced, creating a tragic humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. MSF teams have been providing medical care in Rann since January 2017. Mobile teams deliver assistance on a regular basis, and a permanent medical team had been based in Rann since September 2017.
Aerial view of Rann’s internally displaced persons camp in Borno state, Nigeria. Photo: Sylvain Cherkaoui/COSMOS
At least 11 people were killed, including three relief workers, a doctor, Nigerian soldiers and policemen, when Boko Haram struck Rann on Thursday night, the United Nations and Nigerian authorities said on Friday.
Three aid workers were reportedly among those killed, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Previous accounts had put the number of relief workers killed at four. A Nigerian newspaper said three soldiers and three policemen were also killed by Boko Haram.
“We are deeply shocked by the loss of three humanitarian colleagues in Rann,” said MSF international president Dr. Joanne Liu. “These tragic deaths reflect the ruthless violence which the people trapped in Borno face daily.”
Prior to the attack, the roughly 40,000 people living in Rann were relying almost entirely on MSF’s services to access health care.
“Leaving our patients, which include 60 children currently enrolled in our nutrition program, without medical assistance, is an extremely painful decision,” said Kerri Ann Kelly, MSF emergency coordinator in Nigeria.
“We will continue to evaluate how the situation evolves and we will return as soon as the conditions allow. This latest attack is a stark reminder that it is the people in Borno who are paying the price of this ruthless conflict. They are trapped in a deadly cycle of violence and are heavily reliant on external assistance to survive. In Rann, vital assistance is now considerably reduced.”
MSF said in a statement that “the people in Rann are extremely vulnerable, as many have sought shelter there after fleeing their homes. MSF has mainly been treating people for malaria, malnutrition, and illnesses linked to poor living conditions. The town was cut off from the outside world during the months of the rainy season and no food or aid supplies were brought in during this time. MSF estimates that the mortality rate among children under five in Rann was twice the level that is considered a humanitarian emergency between May and November 2017”.
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