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Refugees Who Fled Boko Haram Die Of Starvation In Nigeria Camp

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says hundreds of children are among the dead.

23/06/2016 10:39 PM AEST | Updated June 23, 2016 22:47
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A file photo a doctor treating to a malnourished child at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria. Doctors Without Borders says over 1,200 people who fled Boko Haram have died of starvation and dehydration in an aid camp in Nigeria. 

LAGOS (Reuters) - More than 1,200 people have died from starvation and illness at an aid camp in northeastern Nigeria that houses people fleeing the militant group Boko Haram, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontières said on Thursday.

MSF said its team found 24,000 people, including 15,000 children, sheltering in the camp located on a hospital compound during a visit to Bama last month -- its first trip to the city since it was wrested from Boko Haram's control in March 2015.

The city was part of an area around the size of Belgium that was held by Boko Haram for more than six months before being pushed out by the army.

MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said "a catastrophic humanitarian emergency is currently unfolding" at the camp, adding that around a fifth of 800 children who underwent medical screening were acutely malnourished and that almost 500 children had died.

"We have been told that people including children there have starved to death," said Ghada Hatim, MSF head of mission in Nigeria. "We were told that on certain days more than 30 people have died due to hunger and illness."

During its assessment, the Doctors Without Borders team counted 1,233 graves near the camp that had been dug in the past year. It said 480 of these graves belonged to children.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and 2 million displaced in Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during Boko Haram's seven-year insurgency, in which the group has tried to create a state adhering to sharia, Islamic law.

Nigeria's army, aided by troops from neighboring countries, has recaptured most of the territory that was lost to the group. But the jihadist group, which last year pledged loyalty to Islamic State, still regularly stages suicide bombings.

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Lanre Ola, in Maiduguri; Editing by Ulf Laessing.)

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