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Nigeria Fighting Cuts Food, Aid Access

FILE - A doctor attends to a malnourished child at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria. Doctors Without Borders says nearly 200 refugees from Boko Haram have died of starvation and dehydration in the city of Bama in the past month.

As many as six people are dying daily from disease and malnutrition at a northeastern Nigeria camp for people displaced by Boko Haram violence, Doctors Without Borders said.

The aid group called the situation at a hospital where 24,000 people are sheltering in the town of Bama a “catastrophic humanitarian emergency.”

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the dire conditions in Bama are a result of recent fighting between the military and the Boko Haram insurgency.

NEMA spokesman Abdul Ibrahim said most of the people who are ill at the camp have recently arrived in Bama from isolated areas that have become battlefields between the military and the insurgents.

“Because they’ve been in communities that were cut off without access, they couldn’t get food and medical supplies in those locations,” Ibrahim said.

Operation Crackdown

Nigeria’s army last month announced Operation Crackdown, an offensive to push the Islamist Boko Haram militants out of their stronghold in the Sambisa Forest near Bama.

Boko Haram’s fight against the Nigerian state has killed upwards of 20,000 people and forced 2.7 million more to flee across the region.

In 2014 and 2015, the group was able to overpower Nigeria’s military and occupy towns across the northeast, including Bama.

Those gains were reversed by an offensive with troops from Nigeria and neighboring states, but several of the reclaimed towns were heavily damaged.

Many of the Nigerians displaced by the fighting have ended up at camps like the one in Bama.

NEMA said it has provided food and medicine to the camp, while the U.N. Children’s Fund is also working in the town.

Deteriorating situation

But Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, said conditions have deteriorated.

In a release, the group said of 800 children surveyed in the camp, 19 percent suffered from malnutrition. MSF moved 16 children who were in imminent danger of dying from malnutrition out of the camp and to the Borno State capital Maiduguri.

At least 188 people have died in Bama in the last month, MSF said. The group also counted over 1,200 graves at the camp, 480 of which contained the remains of children.

Ibrahim said NEMA was working with the military to gain access to areas that the military had recently cleared of Boko Haram in order to aid trapped civilians.

“We hope to provide medicine and food, which is the major problem, what they are lacking now,” he said.

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