Cholera has broken out in north-east Nigeria at a camp for people displaced by the eight year conflict with Boko Haram, aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said, bringing disease to communities already underfed and living in squalor.
The outbreak in Maiduguri, epicentre of the fight against the Islamist insurgents, confirms aid groups’ fears that Nigeria’s rainy season could spread disease in camps for the internally displaced that are often already unsanitary.
About 1.8 million have abandoned their homes because of violence or food shortages, UN agencies say and many live in camps for the displaced throughout north-east Nigeria, particularly in Maiduguri and surrounding Borno.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is increasing its “efforts to prevent further deaths and the spread of cholera in Maiduguri”, the group said.
MSF has set up a 40-bed cholera treatment unit, which has admitted 70 patients, mostly from the Muna Garage camp.
“Following heavy rain, the camp is partly flooded, making the already poor sanitary conditions even worse, an additional risk factor during a cholera outbreak,” MSF said, adding a potential case was reported from another part of Maiduguri.
“Since last weekend we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of patients at our treatment centre and at the rehydration point in Muna camp,” said Anne-Cecile Niard, MSF project co-ordinator in the statement.
“We are worried the number of beds currently planned will not be enough to cope at the peak of the outbreak.”
More than 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict with Boko Haram, and 5.2 million people in the north-east do not have secure access to food, with tens of thousands already in famine-like conditions, according to the United Nations.