WORLD

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 29/12/2016 9:23 PM AEDT
STEFAN HEUNIS via Getty Images
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a young boy suffering from severe acute malnutrition lying on the ground at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
STEFAN HEUNIS via Getty Images
This boy is being treated for severe acute malnutrition in June at a Unicef nutrition clinic in Muna camp, which houses nearly 16,000 internally displaced people, on the outskirts of Maiduguri in Borno State, northeastern 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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