MSF says they have treated thousands of children for acute malnutrition, measles, malaria and other conditions.
Increasing violence in northern Nigeria’s Zamfara state is causing a humanitarian crisis, according to the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).
The region has struggled with decades-long community clashes over resources, but recently some groups have become more violent – looting, stealing and kidnapping for ransom, and people fleeing to areas where aid groups are struggling to respond.
In a statement published on Thursday, MSF said that between January and April, they had already treated 10,300 children in Zamfara for severe acute malnutrition, measles, malaria and other conditions.
“It’s 54 percent higher than in the same period last year,” said MSF doctor Godwin Emudanohwo.
“People here now need food, safe water and vaccinations. Families tell us that they will not be able to farm for the new season, which means a new cycle of hunger. ”
Nearly 700,000 people were internally displaced in northwestern and north-central Nigeria in February, including more than 124,000 in Zamfara alone, according to the UN migration agency, IOM.
Authorities are struggling to respond in a region that has already recorded the highest poverty rate in Nigeria, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report.
“As of 2019, all seven states in the area had poverty levels above the national average … Millions do not have access to basic health care and clean water, and the coverage of immunization is far below national targets,” he said.
In the state of Zamfara, criminal gangs known locally as bandits have set up camps in Rugu forest which they use as a springboard for attacks in the neighboring states of Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger.
Security forces, who are also fighting an armed rebellion of more than ten years in the northeast of the country, are being stretched.
While violence in the Northwest spiral increased, sexual violence increased, MSF said while gunmen assaulted some of their abducted victims.
The fear of traveling over dangerous roads means that rape survivors often seek support late, or not at all, the aid group said.
“What is happening here is a humanitarian emergency that needs urgent attention and a quick and proper response,” said Froukje Pelsma, MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria.