© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Disaster Looms In Borno Town As Rain Starts
Living conditions have remained dire for residents of Rann, the small town located in Borno State North East Nigeria, where almost 100 people were killed in an accidental airstrike by a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force in January.
One of the major humanitarian agencies working in the town, the Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, commonly known as Doctors Without Borders, say the town could be completely rendered inaccessible when the rainy season sets in in earnest.
Project Coordinator of the MSF, Silas Adamou, described the humanitarian situation in Rann as “terrible” as the residents remain in dire need of healthcare, shelter and water.
Adamou said that despite the current situation, more Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, continue to arrive the community in droves as they run away from the Boko Haram Terrorists.
“The living conditions are terrible. People are living outdoors in makeshift shelters and survive on less than five liters of water per day. That is far below recommended standards,” Adamou said.
“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.”
According to the medical charity, MSF, there are no functional permanent health facilities in Rann town and there is no capacity to treat people who need hospital care.
Residents cannot travel elsewhere to access proper healthcare due to the insecurity and “falling sick in Rann is almost a death sentence.”
Adamou further said: “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.”
Added to the lack of basic nutrition and healthcare, is the fear that has refused to go away since the airstrike that claimed the lives of many in the community.
“Fear reigns over the whole population,” Adamou said. “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. They say they feel trapped in the middle of fire.”
Things Could Get Worse
According to the MSF, the rainy season could make things even worse for the residents of Rann community as the already very bad roads leading to the town could become impassable.
“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,” said the MSF project director.
“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.
“Insecurity and remoteness make it extremely difficult for humanitarian organisations to provide assistance in Rann on a regular basis,” Adamou said.
According to him, the MSF delivers aid as well as conduct general health consultations, mainly for women and children only when access is possible.
“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.”