Starving to death: Boko Haram's food crisis in Nigeria

Millions of children are starving in northeast Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram conflict

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On the brink of death. Two-year-old Abdullahi is dying from hunger. His mother can barely watch as a team of doctors work to save her son.

This intensive care unit is in Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, where many victims of Boko Haram have fled, seeking refuge.


Here, the Doctors Without Borders team treat the most serious cases of malnutrition every day. They're seeing an increasing number of children, starving and desperate.)

Marco Olla, pediatrician, said "Several of them they have very serious conditions. They are critical patients and mainly disease that we see all the day in the ICU are related to sepsis, pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea."

For seven years the Islamist militant group, Boko haram has waged its bloody insurgency across the north of Nigeria and into the border region of Lake Chad. An estimated 20,000 people have died.

More than 2.6 million have had to flee their homes. Now the United Nations estimate that some 65,000 people are living in famine.

Even emergency medical teams are shocked at what they're seeing.

Bamidele Omotola, a nutrition specialist with UNICEF, said "I do remember that the last time we had such serious cases was like when we had the Nigerian civil war. When people were behind the frontlines and immediately the crisis was resolved they were able to come out and we saw very, very bad cases."

At this camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, 6,000 people are trying simply to survive. There's no basic sanitation and very real fears disease will spread.

Medical teams prioritorise the weakest. Malnutrition, though, is even more widespread: 6.3 million people are hungry, too, in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

The UN says it now needs 740 million dollars to fund its programmes. But with Nigeria now in recession, it's only received 21 per cent of the 484 million dollars it needs.

And the situation may be worse than feared, with some rural areas cut off by fighting and insecurity.

Javed Ali Baba, emergency medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said "Right now more than half of the region is still inaccessible so there are still a lot of people out there who need a lot of help."

With land destroyed or mined, farmers unable to grow crops, and water sources contaminated, hunger has now become the collateral damage of the insurgency.

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