Baga: Anti-hunger Group Says 65,000 Fled After Boko Haram’s Attack
Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organisation committed to ending world hunger, is currently calling for generous financial support to enable them prevent children in the North-East axis of Nigeria from sliding deeper into tragedy.
According to the group, which claimed that the December 26, attack on a military base in Baga, forced as many as 40,000 people to flee to safety in Monguno and more than 25,000 to flee to Maiduguri, pointed out that their officials are on the ground in both towns helping the newly displaced persons.
The group’s emergency teams in the war-torn region are helping save lives, providing lifesaving treatment to malnourished children and delivering urgent food and water. For instance, Mohamed Belew, was once happy living as a farmer in Baga with his wife and young child.
But when the town was taken over by the insurgent Boko Haram groups in the last week of December 2018, his family ran for their lives in different directions. According to Mohamed, people could not think straight: afraid of the conflict and desperate for safety, they started fleeing in whichever direction they could.
And, while most people fled, some of the more vulnerable groups unable to make the arduous journey, including the elderly and disabled, were forced to be left behind.
Mohamed’s family was among the many victims of this manmade disaster ravaging that flank of Nigeria. They ran separately, away from the family home where they grew up, married, and farmed.
His wife and child fled toward Chad, but Mohamed and his brother went south. After more than 22 hours of walking with young children and whatever belongings they could carry, they arrived in Monguno. Mohamed has no idea if he will ever see his wife and child again, or if they will be able to return home – he still holds out hope that they are safe and will be reunited one day.
After another attack by the Islamist group on Kekeno and Monguno Military Barracks last December 28, many aid workers were temporarily relocated to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, about 80 miles south.
This relocation led to a noticeable absence of humanitarian personnel in Monguno, with the exception of a few organisations. While some remaining staff continue to deliver essential health and nutrition services, including members of Action Against Hunger’s team, the small number of humanitarian actors on the ground has limited the response and prevented assessments to understand of the full scale of the crisis.
Exhausted and desperate, Mohamed and his family, and thousands more who sought refuge in Monguno, hope that assistance will arrive soon.
‘’It is vital that we have humanitarian actors back in Monguno to respond to the needs of the new arrivals, in addition to providing aid to the large numbers of displaced people already present’’, says Shashwat.
Action Against Hunger has been providing humanitarian assistance to affected populations in Monguno since 2016. The group now has close to 150 staff in Monguno providing food assistance, access to clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene, improving health and nutrition, and helping communities recover their livelihoods.
As of January 4, this humanitarian group has distributed kits of basic supplies to more than 800 families in Monguno. Their teams have also trained 135 community volunteers to carry out mass nutrition screenings of children.
They also screened 53,362 children under five years old for malnutrition, diagnosing 11,391 cases of moderate acute malnutrition and 622 cases of severe acute malnutrition. Volunteers are sending those suffering from malnutrition for treatment at six health centers supported by the group.
Action Against Hunger Country Director in Nigeria, Shashwat Saraf, said ‘’we have 90 team members responding to health and nutrition needs, urgent water, sanitation and hygiene needs, but there is still so much that needs to be done.’’
Shashwat has however, met with the district head and many of the newly displaced people arriving from Baga, Doron Baga, Kukawa, and Cross Kuawa, pointing out that access to food, clean water, clothing and medicine still remain key priority needs.