The Nigerian Army has urged officials of the Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, and other international groups to desist from visiting conflict zones in the country.
The Chief of Army Policy and Plans, Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun, made the appeal at a meeting with members of the organisation on Friday at the Army Headquarters in Abuja.
He stressed that the security of the humanitarian workers was a top priority for the Nigerian government.
Adeosun informed the MSF that the plea to stay away from conflict zones was in their interest as Boko Haram terrorists carry out attacks indiscriminately.
Trained To Kill
“Despite your neutrality and impartiality, at times situations make it sometimes difficult for you to have the reach you would like to have – neutrally without any security man or apparatus seen around you,” he said.
The lieutenant general added, “To the terrorists, everything is a target; they don’t know what it is to even attack you as a group that is concerned and responsible for their well-being, because they are not trained in that manner; they are only trained to kill.”
He stressed that while reaching out to victims of conflict across the country, its members must cooperate with the government by keeping away from serious conflict zones.
Adeosun, however, promised to ensure adequate security for members of the organisation to help them alleviate the plight of persons affected by insurgency in the North East.
“We must continue to operate with understandings so that while you are providing succour for the people, you also don’t come into harm’s way,” he said.
Global humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has raised an alarm that over 30,000 people are in acute need of shelter, water, food, and medical care, among others in Monguno Local Government Area of Bono State.
The organisation said this in a statement on Tuesday by its Field Communication Officer in Borno, Abdulkareem Yakubu.
According to it, the affected people were forced to flee to the town following renewed clashes that erupted in parts of the state in December 2018.
It added that the immediate humanitarian needs of the people were not being addressed adequately.
MSF said there was an urgent need for better coordination between the Nigerian government, United Nations and non-governmental organisations in scaling up the aid response in Monguno, so as to avoid a catastrophic situation with the onset of the rainy season expected in May.
It stated that the residents have been caught up in a cycle of violence, displacement, and insecurity, in the last 10 years.
It, however, warned that people’s health was at risk due to the dire living conditions as the latest clashes have forced tens of thousands from their homes, fields, and livelihoods, and left them struggling to survive.
“People who recently arrived in Monguno fled their homelands leaving everything behind,” says MSF humanitarian affairs officer, Musa Baba.
He added, “They come from areas where they could farm. Now, they are sleeping on the streets or wherever they can find space, hungry, thirsty and exposed to very high temperatures during the day and low temperatures at night.”
The group identified the lack of land to build shelters for new arrivals as a major problem in Monguno.
Thousands of recently displaced people, according to it, have no space to settle and are living and sleeping in the middle of the town’s streets for weeks, even months.
MSF said it has built shelters in different camps along with some other humanitarian organisations, noting that the camps have the capacity to accommodate more displaced people.
It added that its teams have set up 100 tents and were ready to put up 700 additional shelters for the displaced persons.
“The current situation, with very vulnerable people – women, children and the elderly – living out of doors, rather than in a camp or with the host community, increases the risk of abuses and the need for protection,” Musa said.
The organisation revealed that a 35-year-old woman, Hajja Bukar, recently arrived in Monguno having been displaced a number of times over recent years due to the Boko Haram insurgency.
It said the woman and her four children have since settled in one of the town’s camps for displaced people, in a rudimentary shelter made of sticks and cloth.
“We are surviving by doing menial jobs like washing dishes and getting paid for it, while our men sometimes go into the bush to fetch firewood to sell,” Hajja was quoted as saying.
MSF was worried that poor living conditions with little sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water were putting displaced people in Monguno at risk of pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria, among other preventable diseases.
it said it was running a 10-bed emergency room for adults at a Ministry of Health facility in Monguno, as well as providing people with mental health support.
About 40,000 residents of Rann who fled their homes in Borno State, following a recent attack by insurgents have been asked to leave their refugee camps in Goura, Cameroon.
This is according to the international humanitarian body, Médecins Sans Frontières, (MSF) which said that the affected people have started to make their way out of Cameroon.
Thousands of people fled Rann in Kalabalge Local Government Area of Borno State following the violent attack on the town on January 14, 2019.
They arrived in Bodo, Cameroon on foot, some seven kilometres across the border from Rann after crossing River El Eid Ebeji.
Since then, the refugees have been staying in a large camp in Goura, most of them sleeping in the open, even though it is sandstorm season and the temperature drops sharply at night.
The MSF Emergency Coordinator in Goura, Stéphanie Remion, has raised concern over their safety and welfare in the face of the new development.
“Today we are seeing people packing up their belongings and leaving for Rann after being told by Cameroonian and Nigerian authorities to leave.
“We are extremely concerned over what will happen to them once they go back to Rann as the security situation there is very uncertain and there is no humanitarian assistance available,” she said in a statement by the MSF Field Communication Officer in Borno State, AbdulKareem Yakubu.
According to the MSF, many of the people did not want to return because of fear, following the several attacks that had been launched on the community by the terrorists.
Of particular concern to the MSF is the health implication of the people returning to Rann, where they might not get adequate medical help.
“We know there were suspected cases of measles in Goura and if this spreads in Rann where there is no medical care available, it will be a disaster. We call on the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria to protect these vulnerable people and ensure they can seek safety where they choose and where they have access to essential means such as shelter, food, and medical care,” the MSF added.
The MSF whose warehouse, office, and clinic were looted and burnt down in Rann, had set up a clinic in the camp, providing more than 400 consultations.
Thirty-five per cent of these were for infectious respiratory diseases, followed by diarrhoea and conjunctivitis, all of which are related to the refugees’ poor living conditions, according to MSF officials.
According to the state governor, Kashim Shettima, vehicles were sent on to convey the refugees to the closest Nigerian town, Ngala, to enable them cast their votes on Saturday before returning to Goura.
The mother was admitted at 9:30 am, the birth recorded at 9:35. Women often arrive in extremis at the Doctors Without Borders maternity hospital in southeastern Afghanistan, one of the most active in the world, with more than 60 babies born daily.
The early hours of the morning are the most feverish for the hospital — affectionately known by the NGO as “the baby factory” — just a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s tribal areas, in Khost province.
The Taliban are active in the region and roads are often dangerous after dark, so when 25-year-old Asmad Fahri felt her contractions begin at night she knew she would have to wait until daybreak to begin the three-hour journey to the hospital.
Finally, she is resting, her infant tightly swaddled and asleep between her knees.
On average new mothers are kept in the ward for six hours, but she has asked to leave after just three, to ensure she reaches home before darkness falls again.
Sometimes the mothers have to travel for days, in pain and bleeding, over unpaved, insecure roads in carts or by whatever mode of transportation they can find.
In an opposite wing, the delivery tables continuously welcome newcomers.
Most only have time to lift the long layers of clothing hiding their bodies and wedge their coloured veils between their teeth, too rushed even to change into MSF’s standard red pyjamas.
The Khost Maternity Hospital (KMH) opened at the end of 2012 in a medical desert in the conflict-riven country with one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.
It was an overnight success, with nearly 12,000 deliveries in its first full year in 2013.
By 2017 that figure had nearly doubled, to 23,000.
This year the hospital is on track to deliver 24,000 babies, says Dr. Rasha Khoury, a Palestinian gynecologist who is a medical officer at the site.
If so that puts it within crying distance of the busiest maternity wards in the United States, where the Northside Hospital in Atlanta delivered 27,000 babies in 2016, the highest number in the country that year.
“Here we are saving lives for free,” smiles Safia Khan, 24, the assistant manager of the midwifery team.
Behind her, a young mother of twins searches her skirts and hands her a folded banknote. It is a traditional gesture of gratitude after delivery, at times required in some hospitals but politely declined here. “It’s forbidden,” insists Khan.
More deadly than war
The UN and the World Bank put maternal mortality at around 396 deaths per 100,000 live births in Afghanistan.
But the figure is disputed, with experts pointing out it is an improbable fall from the 1,600 per 100,000 recorded in 2002.
Such a decline would mean Afghanistan would have reached its Millennium Development Goal set by the UN some five years early, a study published in the medical journal the Lancet noted in 2017.
The authors of that study say more credible figures released by the Afghan government in partnership with USAID suggest maternal mortality could still be as high as 1,291 per 100,000 — meaning that giving birth is around five times more deadly for Afghan women than the conflict itself.
If so, it is a staggering figure 17 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, despite billions of dollars in international aid, in a country with one of the youngest, fastest-growing populations in the world.
Dr Khoury says that MSF facilitates around 40 percent of the births in Khost, which has an estimated 1.5 million inhabitants.
But to make a real dent in the mortality rates in the face of these challenges they would need “three hospitals like MSF”, she says.
On top of war, poverty, and a galloping population, the medical staff faces a further obstacle: the Pashtunwali, the patriarchal social code of honour that dictates life in the conservative Pashtun tribal region where Khost lies.
Under the Pashtunwali the genders must be segregated, and a woman must never show her face to a stranger.
As such, medical staff at the hospital are exclusively female, with the exception of some anesthetists and the director of the neonatology department.
Even so, a little persuasion has at times been necessary, says Salamat Khan Mandozai, a respected local figure who deals with security for the hospital and has also acted as a community liaison.
“In this rural environment, some women still prefer to give birth at home,” he notes.
Going to hospital embarrasses them, agrees Safia Khan — birth is a private matter.
Dr Khoury says the hospital is aware that many women are not coming to them but adds that the families who do come do so “without hesitation”.
For many, she adds, obstacles are not about culture, but finances — namely, paying for transportation — or safety and security, especially at night.
Women must also wait until a man of the family is available to accompany them, she says.
But once inside the hospital power returns to the mothers-in-law who escort the patients until they reach the doors of the delivery room.
“We are really reaching people at the margin of the society in Afghanistan,” says Dr. Khoury.
The decision was a fallout of the attack by the outlawed group on an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp on Thursday last week, killing the three aid workers while three others were injured and a female nurse missing.
Condemning the attack, President Muhammadu Buhari said it had now shown the terrorists as godless, brutish, and utterly to be despised, while the United Nations urged the Federal Government to ensure the perpetrators were brought to book.
MSF, however, said it is still unclear how many people were killed and injured, but its medical staff treated nine wounded patients before leaving.
The Emergency Coordinator in Nigeria, Kerri Ann Kelly, said the decision is regrettable as thousands of people living in Rann rely almost entirely on MSF services to access healthcare.
“Leaving our patients, which include 60 children currently enrolled in our nutrition programme, without medical assistance, is an extremely painful decision,” she said.
“We will continue to evaluate how the situation evolves and we will return as soon as the conditions allow. This latest attack is a stark reminder that it is the people in Borno who are paying the price of this ruthless conflict.
“They are trapped in a deadly cycle of violence and are heavily reliant on external assistance to survive. In Rann, this is now considerably reduced,” Kelly added.
MSF teams have been providing medical care to about 40,000 people in Rann, since January 2017. Mobile teams delivered assistance on a regular basis, and a permanent medical team has been based in the town since September 2017.
According to the humanitarian organisation, the people in Rann are extremely vulnerable as many have sought shelter there after fleeing their homes in the wake of the insurgency.
The Nigerian Air Force investigative panel set up to over the misfiring incident by one of its jets has been having series of discussions with survivors of the incident.
This is because the affected population in Rann community, of Kalabalge Local Government in Borno state have been thrown into trauma, following the incident which left over 200 people dead.
While some of those affected by the misfire have been whisked away to Maiduguri, others with minor injuries are stabilizing back home.
But anytime an Air Force jet flies over the Rann airspace, there is panic and fear of the unknown, according to officials of the 3 Battalion operating in the area.
Civilian authorities, the Nigerian Army and the Air Force have been talking to them for confidence building.
The Commanding Officer of 3 Battalion, Colonel Patrick Omoke said: “There’s been some form of panic within the community.
“Even when we send for aggressor to come and check what’s happening around us, the moment it’s airborne everybody starts dispersing maybe as a result of shock from the event of January 17th.
“But we have been doing a lot of talking to them through the community leaders, explaining to them that it was an accident and we are the ones sending for them now to come and survey and make sure that we are safe.”
Some of the locals confirmed the words of the Commanding Officer, confessing their feeling of insecurity and fear of the unknown anytime an aircraft flies over the community.
One of the survivors, Bulama Malawa, told Channels TV: “I lost my wife and daughter to the bomb from the airplane and people were in pieces that day.
“Today when we see them coming, everyone looks for where to hide especially the children. We are lucky to be alive from the last time but so no one is taking chances.”
The AVM Bala-Ribah-led board has assured the villagers of the good intentions of the Nigerian Air Force and a thorough investigation.
Part of the terms of reference of the board is to investigate circumstances surrounding the operational error that killed over 200 civilians and two soldiers.
“In the Nigerian Air Force, be it accidents, incidents or whatever, we go very thorough in our investigations; reason being that the operations will be continuous and if there was a mistake whether systemic, whether it was from the machine or from the human being; we need to find out exactly what the problem was so that we can incorporate that in our local procedure or in the rules of engagement to forestall future occurrence,” he said.
The board also visited the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, commending the Army for the show of solidarity when the error occurred.
General Irabor has also asked the Air Force Investigative Board to concentrate on detecting what went wrong and make recommendations on how future occurrences can be forestalled.
He said that the theatre command is also conducting independent investigation for record purposes.
There are about 23,000 men, women and children living in Rann, the headquarters of Kalabalge Local Government Area.
While the Doctors Without Borders (MSF), put the death toll at 90, the locals put the figure at over 200.
The Nigerian Airforce had admitted that the bombing was a mistake and apologised.
Fifty-four victims of the Nigerian Air Force accidental bombing in Rann, Kala-Balge Local Council of Borno State are in stable conditions at different hospitals where they are receiving treatment, a government official said on Wednesday.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia, told reporters that the victims were receiving treatment at three hospitals located in Maiduguri.
Giving a breakdown of the locations of the 54 victims, Dr. Mshelia said 32 persons were receiving treatment at the State Specialist Hospital; 16 were being treated at Seven Division Military Hospital in Maimalari Barracks while six persons are hospitalised at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
The Commissioner said all the 54 hospitalised victims were in stable conditions, with medical experts from the State, humanitarian partners and the military attending to their health needs.
“It is still too early to give an accurate number of deaths because as at the time of issuing the update, evacuation of survivors is still ongoing with four helicopters provided by the United Nations and the Nigerian Air Force airlifting the victims,” he said.
Dr. Mshelia also told reporters that bodies were still being recovered.
The Commissioner said humanitarian partners like the MSF, International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the United Nations and different stakeholders have been extremely dedicated to the emergency evacuation and medical response.
Meanwhile Governor Kashim Shettima has since morning deployed his Deputy, Usman Mamman Durkwa and the House of Representatives member, representing Kala-Balge, Bama, Dikwa and Ngala Federal Constituency of Borno State, Mamman Nur Sheriff among other officials to the scene of the incident at Rann, Headquarters of Kala-Balge Local Government Area in order to assess the situation and supervise evacuation of victims to Maiduguri.
The State Ministry of Health has already put in place an emergency medical response team to coordinate rehabilitation of victims, the statement said.
A healthy baby boy has been born to a Nigerian woman, aboard a rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.
The parents, Otas and Faith Oqunbor, had been rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat.
They had been making the journey across the sea, with their two other children, aged seven and five, and were rescued just 24 hours before the baby, whom they named Newman Otas, was born.
MSF communications officer, Alva White took to Twitter on Monday to report the baby’s birth.
“Just over an hour ago a baby boy was born on board the Aquarius. Mum, bub, dad and two big brothers are all well,” she said.
Mrs Oqunbor said that she had experienced contractions for three days.
Medecins Sans Frontier said that because baby Otas was born on international waters, his nationality is still debatable,” the gorgeous little guy was born in international waters so his nationality is still under discussion.”
At least 392 people had been on the same boat with the Oqunbors before the rescue. Seven of them were pregnant.
The United Nations has been accused of failing to act quickly enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives in north east Nigeria where a food crisis already killing hundreds of people a day is poised to become the most devastating in decades.
The head of Médecins Sans Frontières operations in Nigeria, Isabelle Mouniaman, said that MSF has been raising the alarm in northern Nigeria for two years and U.N organisations have failed to respond.
She also accused the federal government of deliberate negligence and attempting to conceal the scale of the crisis.
International aid agencies have focused on Maiduguri’s overstretched camps, but more than 80% of displaced people in the city, around 1.9 million people, are living among the community, the vast majority without access to food aid or medical support.