(By Kieran Guilbert| Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Six months after a botched military strike rocked their refuge, tens of thousands of Nigerians who thronged the camp to escape Boko Haram are now struggling to survive, aid agencies said on Wednesday.
Nigeria’s air force says it accidentally attacked the camp in the town of Rann in January, in a strike intended to hit the Islamist militants, because the site was not marked on its maps.
Local officials at the time put the death toll at more than 200 people; aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says at least 112 were killed and about 150 were injured in the bombing.
The start of the rainy season has cut off access to Rann, leaving more than 60,000 people to rely on limited food and drug supplies that were last delivered weeks ago, aid agencies say.
Trucks carrying aid are stuck outside the town, which rain has turned into an island, marooned by waterlogged and swampy roads, according to MSF’s emergency coordinator Dana Krause.
“We are discussing alternative methods like delivering aid by donkeys next week,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But we are anticipating a bad situation in terms of hunger and malnutrition levels … it is very worrying,” Krause added.
The population of Rann has at least doubled since January as more people have been uprooted by Boko Haram, while others who had sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon have returned home, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
This has left Rann overcrowded, with inhabitants prey to malaria and water-borne diseases such as cholera, according to ICRC spokeswoman Aleksandra Mosimann.
Rann is in Borno state, the heart of Boko Haram’s 8-year insurgency to create an Islamist caliphate, which has killed about 20,000 people and uprooted at least 2.7 million.
The Nigerian army, backed by neighbours, has retaken most areas held by the group. But the jihadists still carry out bombings and raids in northeast Nigeria, as well as in Cameroon, Chad and Niger, and have ramped up attacks in recent months.
In Rann, the scars of the military air strike are still raw.
“Whenever an army helicopter arrives, people get very frightened, especially the children,” said Krause of MSF.
“You can still see where the bomb struck, there is shrapnel everywhere … it is not easy for people to forget or move on.”