Image used for illustrative purpose

76,000 IDPs face starvation as UN halts supply to Rann

About 76,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Rann are currently threatened by starvation following recent Boko Haram attacks which has forced humanitarian workers to flee the community, officials say.

On Monday, January 14, Boko Haram insurgents carried out a deadly attack on Rann during which an undisclosed number of casualties were recorded.

The attack, which lasted all through Monday night till the morning of Tuesday, targeted a military base stationed in Rann, the headquarters of Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State.

Rann is the Borno village where a military fighter jet in 2017 mistakenly dropped bombs on innocent people in an IDP camp killing nearly 200 persons.

It was also in Rann that three female health workers working for UN agencies were abducted last year. Two of the abductees have so far been killed by the Boko Haram.

On Monday, the insurgents returned to Rann where they carried out yet another deadly attack.

Confirming the incident via a statement, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the deadly attack has not only forced an emergency evacuation of aid workers but also made Rann inaccessible by land and by air.

Mr Kallon heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The statement by Samantha Newport, UNOCHA’s head of communication in Nigeria, indicated said Mr Kallon was gravely concerned “over the interruption of aid delivery to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Rann…following a deadly attack by a non-state armed group.”

The statement also said: “the interruption in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Rann is the direct result of an attack that started at dusk on 14 January 2019 on the military base, and continued into the next day.

“At the time of the attack, an estimated 76,000 internally displaced people were living in Rann,” said the foremost UN agency in Nigeria.

The statement also explained the dire situation further.

”A medical clinic, warehouses with humanitarian supplies and accommodation for aid workers were looted and/or destroyed in the attack, and the market and shelters in the camp were burned down by the attackers.

”Several civilian fatalities have also been reported, although the total number is not yet known, and thousands are reported to have fled to Cameroon. In addition, 14 aid workers, who were in Rann during the attack and able to hide, were withdrawn the day after by helicopter.”

At present Rann is inaccessible to international humanitarian organisations both by road and by air.

Mr Kallon said: “the attacks on Rann, that are increasingly frequent, are having a devastating impact on the civilians taking refuge in this isolated town and severely affecting our ability to deliver life-saving aid to women, men and children in need.

“This attack has spread fear among an already vulnerable population, and humanitarian assets were also targeted. I urge the Government of Nigeria to protect civilians, including aid workers.”

The military has not issued any statement on the Rann attack neither has the federal government reacted to the agency’s appeal.

Also reacting to the Rann attack, Amnesty International said satellite images it analysed show the horrific aftermath of a Boko Haram attack that devastated Rann, displacing more than 9,000 people earlier this week.

The satellite images reveal the true extent of the devastating attack which took place on 14 January in the Borno State town, which hosted thousands of civilians internally displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram. According to Amnesty International’s analysis, the attack resulted in large areas being burnt in the west and south of Rann, with more than 100 structures destroyed or heavily damaged by fire.

“Amnesty International condemns Boko Haram’s despicable disdain for life. This attack clearly targeted civilians and, therefore, may constitute a war crime. The organization appeals to the Nigerian authorities to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the thousands of people who have been displaced,” said Osai Ojigho Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

“What is happening in Rann shows how vulnerable internally displaced persons are in Nigeria and the need to do more to protect them.”