Terror-hit Borno state has been hit by another collapse as doctors, nurses and pharmacists flee for their lives from brutal violence unleashed by Islamist Boko Haram militants, shutting down the health sector of the state.
“The whole healthcare system in northern Borno has collapsed and healthcare delivery is nil,” said Musa Babakura, a surgeon at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
Babakura said the situation was a “growing health crisis”, with the sick forced to trek vasts distances to receive medical attention and vaccination programmes for children compromised.
Violence by Boko Haram militants has raged since 2009, but has been particularly ferocious in recent weeks, with some 500 people killed in suspected Islamist attacks since the start of the year.
Worst hit by militant attacks are villages in remote, rural areas near Borno’s border with Cameroon, despite an increased military presence in the state.
Hospitals and clinics have not escaped raids, even after Nigeria’s government imposed emergency rule on Borno and two other northeastern states in May last year.
Medical personnel have been kidnapped, either for ransom or to treat wounded fighters in Boko Haram’s ranks, while pharmacies — mostly run by Christians — have faced armed robberies and looting.
The insecurity has forced local people to cross into neighbouring Cameroon in search of treatment, with pregnant women and the infirm using donkeys and auto-rickshaws to negotiate the difficult terrain.
The gruelling trek takes its toll, said Modu Faltaye, a local chief in Wulgo, on the shores of Lake Chad.
“By the time the sick reach the hospital (in Cameroon), they are in a worse state, which is why we lose a lot of our sick,” he said.
“Naturally, the rate of maternal and infant mortality is bound to rise in the area as a result of complications arising from poor transportation facilities to hospital,” added Babakura.