Rann: Grave concern over the situation of returnee refugees

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has expressed grave concern over the health and nutritional status of the thousands of refugees recently sent back home from, Goura, Cameroon to Rann, Kala-Balge Local Government Area, Borno State, Nigeria.

Over the two weeks, the global NGO, which first broke the news of the expulsion of the about 40,000 Nigerian refugees from Goura, was not able to determine the number of the refugees that actually returned home to Rann and the number that might have dispersed to settle in other locations in Cameroon.

“We are currently not present in Rann and can’t confirm the number of people who have returned,” Stephanie Remion, NSF Emergency Coordinator in Goura, said in response to Kanem Trust questions via email.

“People have left Goura in their tens of thousands,” Remion, however, confirmed, explaining, “Many went to Rann but we know that many of them refused to go and went to settle in Cameroon.”

The MSF official would not say the difficulties the returnee refugees encountered on their way back to Rann.

“People were telling us they did not want to go back (to Rann) because they were afraid (of more Boko Haram attacks).

“Many also said they had lost their belongings and food stocks. Reports also said many houses and shelters have been destroyed,” she said.

Remion expressed concern over the returnees rushing into returning home to Rann.

“I think people do not know what to expect and that is very worrying,” she said, explaining, “people need to be property informed of what to expect in terms of security and living conditions before taking a decision to go back. From what people were telling us, this is not the case.”

Remion stated: “Return must be voluntary and dignified and taken after informed consent.”

She expressed deep concern over the situation of the refugees in terms of health, food and other requirements of survival.

“We are very concerned, because there is no medical care or humanitarian assistance available in Rann.

“These people are already extremely vulnerable after having fled (from Boko Haram attacks) at least twice,” the MSF official said, adding, “They were highly dependent on assistance before and in Goura, they were living for weeks in precarious conditions.”

She said: “People were in makeshift shelters, exposed to the elements. They had little access to food and fresh water.”

The Emergency Coordinator stressed concern over the health status of the refugees.

“We fear that people’s health status HSS deteriorated over recent weeks as a result if poor living conditions they were in.

“Luckily the suspected measles cases turned out to only be suspected, but there are many other health needs.

“Their nutritional status could quickly deteriorate if they do not have access to food and medical care when they are ill. And we are extremely worried that there is no medical care available for those who need it in Rann,” Stephanie said.

“The Nigerian government has said Rann is safe and that the necessary means are available in Rann,” the Emergency Coordinator recalled.

“We call on the authorities to ensure its people can freely choose where to seek safety and where they can access essential means such as food,” she pleaded.

Meanwhile the Borno State Emergency Management Agency has dispatched food items to the IDPs.

“The Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) rushed in a large consignment of food to them last week,” NEMA’s Officer in charge of food distribution, Commander Manga Salihu Danjuma told Kanem Trust in a telephone interview.

“Yesterday, we, comprising NEMA, SEMA, PCNI and World Food Programme, held a stakeholders meeting to plan a broader relief aid to them, which we will convey this week,” he said.

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