Children in the embattled Nigerian town of Damboa are reportedly suffering from three serious conditions — malaria, measles and malnutrition — despite aid workers' best efforts to keep them healthy. The International Committee of the Red Cross detailed the situation and called for help in a Wednesday news release, noting that "the humanitarian needs remain critical" in Northeast Nigeria.
The population of Damboa, which is located in Borno State, has swollen in recent months as thousands fled areas controlled by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram or otherwise facing violence. Mohammed Sidi, the director general for the National Emergency Management Agency, told Channels Television earlier this year that Borno State now houses about 90 percent of refugee Nigerians in northeastern areas. People are clustered in camps in cities like Dikwa, Bama, Beneishek and Damboa, but many families are struggling.
“Seven out of my nine kids are down with measles right now," widow Maryam Mohammed told Channels Television in March. “The truth is sometimes they attend to us and give us drugs when we visit the camp hospital, but other times they are not available.”
The Red Cross news release noted that Red Cross personnel previously visited the Sabon Gari health center to treat about 2,300 patients and give meals to about 60,000 people. But they've encountered difficulties accessing Damboa because its main highway, the Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu Road, only recently reopened after Boko Haram shut it down for three years, according to All Africa.
There are concerns about safety, too: The road was also the site of a May 29 explosion in which a long-buried improvised explosive device detonated near a military checkpoint. Five people died, local daily the Punch reported.
The measles has long been a significant threat to public health, killing about 115,000 people globally in 2014. Most of them were children, according to the World Health Organization. As such, aid organizations have upped their efforts to vaccinate children against the disease. In November, Nigeria itself started a campaign to vaccinate about 39 million kids in the country under the age of 5.
Residents and doctors were also trying to curb malnutrition, which affects about 1.7 million kids in Nigeria a year, and malaria, which in 2012 killed nearly a child every minute.
"Food, shelter, water, sanitation and medical assistance are urgently needed," the Red Cross wrote in its release.