By Paul Carsten
ABUJA (Reuters) – More than one of every 200 children aged under five at a camp in northeast Nigeria died in just two weeks in early August, according to Reuters calculations based on data from aid agency Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Friday.
The northeast has been embroiled for almost a decade in a war with Islamist insurgents Boko Haram and, more recently, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA).
Under a government programme, hundreds of thousands of people living in the region are being moved for safety to fortified garrison towns, ringed by farms, recaptured from the militants.
In a camp in one of those towns – Bama – MSF teams found that 33 out of an estimated 6,000 children under five died in the two weeks from 2 Aug., the agency said.
“A lot of children are already in a critical state upon arrival, and poor assistance and access to healthcare further deteriorates their condition,” said Katja Lorenz, MSF’s representative in Abuja, in the statement.
Despite the presence of government and international aid agencies, “the health and nutrition situation has been allowed to deteriorate up to the current crisis point,” she said.
Inhabitants of the camp include more than 10,000 people who had come in from the bush since April, many because of military activity. They had pushed the camp beyond capacity by late July, MSF said.
Bama and other similar towns also frequently come under attack.
A spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, responsible for government aid in the northeast, declined to provide immediate comment.
The government has since late 2015 been declaring the defeat of Boko Haram but last month, following a succession of military defeats, the army appointed its fourth commander in little over a year to tackle the insurgency.
At least 100 troops were killed in an ISWA attack last month on a base in Jilli in northeastern Yobe state, said three people familiar with the matter. Two of them said some of the soldiers had been buried in mass graves.
A Nigerian military spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the death toll.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; editing by John Stonestreet)