The international medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has published a report on its website claiming that tens of thousands of people have fled their villages in Zamfara, Nigeria.
This according to the report has significantly increased cases of malnutrition and other health issues in the area.
Farming is the main business of people in this area of the country and without much detailed analysis, people inability to farm is a sign of looming food crises.
Noting its intervention in Anka, Zamfara state, MSF said it; “runs a 135-bed pediatric ward at Anka General Hospital, primarily treating children for malaria, malnutrition, or respiratory tract infections. From January to September, MSF teams treated 7,445 children for malnutrition in Anka.”
“The high number of children we treat for malnutrition in Anka has worrying implications for the situation in the rest of Zamfara state,” said Valerie Weiss, an MSF physician who supervises the hospital’s high-dependency unit.
“With such high numbers here in Anka, we also have to expect many cases of malnutrition in areas where we cannot go due to security concerns.”
The report also noted that the rainy season tends to spike the increase in malaria cases and hospital facility always running at full capacity make children share beds.
The humanitarian organisation which started operation in Zamfara in 2010 conducted thousands of consultations for displaced people in the area from May to September. It also distrubuted cooking and personal hygiene items to about 1,000 families.
Its recent site of operation is a stony field initially proposed to be space for the Emir of Anka’s palace.
Commenting on the state of things in Anka, MSF doctor, Anja Batrice said; “People here have lost everything, The deadly attacks forced them to flee their villages, leaving all their belongings behind. Now they live in makeshift shelters and school buildings.”
In September, MSF teams conducted an emergency assessment in Zumri and Shinkafi, two areas that have been particularly affected by violence.
In one day, the team found 73 children suffering from acute malnutrition in Zumri, including eight with medical complications. MSF is working with the local health authorities to start providing emergency nutrition support in both locations.
MSF started working in Zamfara in 2010 to care for young children who suffer from lead poisoning, which is linked to artisanal gold mining in their communities.
In recent months, however, the threat of abductions and robberies in Zamafara reportedly hinders MSF teams from travelling to remote villages to reach patients. Now, families bring children with lead poisoning symptoms to Anka, often traveling through insecure areas at great risk.
While many of the displaced people in Anka belong to the Hausa ethnic group, some families are members of the Fulani ethnic group, who herd cattle and are often nomadic.
MSF told the story of a thirty-year-old Amina Alh Shehu, a Fulani woman, staying in a ruined building in Anka with her children. They were forced to flee their village more than three years ago, and the violence has worsened since then.
One of the daughters of Amina’s husband was abducted when she returned to their village in Zamfara to give birth to her first child. “She was seven months pregnant when armed gunmen abducted her,” Shehu said. “We had to pay 1,000,000 Naira [about $2,760 US] in ransom. We had to sell a lot of cattle to pay it. Our cows, goats and chickens used to be our security for the future—if something bad happened, we could sell them. Now we don’t have that security anymore.”
With the main source of her family’s livelihood gone, Shehu now struggles to feed her children. Her youngest, the twins Hassana and Husseini, were born five months ago. MSF already treated Husseini for acute malnutrition at Anka General Hospital, and he was eventually discharged. However, feeding the two babies is still a challenge. “I don’t have enough breastmilk for both children,” Shehu said. “Now I buy infant formula, which is very expensive.”