On July 1st, 2016, Mai Mahaman Saley and Dr Ali Ouattara, respectively Referent Logistics and Deputy Director of Programmes for ALIMA, conducted an exploratory mission in the city of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria. They were the first international aid workers to set foot there since the takeover of the city by the Nigerian military. Mai Mahaman Saley describes the first day in the city.
July 1st, 2016. We decided to carry out an exploratory mission to Monguno. Our team was based in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. We heard that the city of Monguno had been secured by Nigerian forces. Monguno is located 140 km north of Maiduguri. As this is the last town before the front line, a large number of displaced people from villages in the north and east come to find refuge there. Very little information is available on the situation there as no international organizations had gone so far yet. So we decided to go to Monguno for assessing medical needs and the ability to send a team on site.
3PM. Our journey begins. We were not 100% certain about the secutiry of the road from Maiduguri to Monguno , but we heard that it was still being used. We had permission to travel without military escort. The first danger was the lack of GSM telephone network on the road. The road is in relatively good condition, but we cross burned villages, charred vehicles, and tanks. Traces of the conflict are still present in the landscape.
6PM. We reach Monguno. When we arrived, we saw the impressive security apparatus put in place: the city is surrounded by trenches. Once inside the city walls, we quickly met with military authorities and found our base for the night.
5AM. We begin to settle in the mother-child health center. The rumor of our presence spread fast in the city and we are quickly surrounded by hundreds of displaced people in need of medical care. Ali and the local IRCC medical team begin consultations. There are a lot of patients and we are forced to close the doors when the waiting room is full to create a suitable circuit and triage of sick children.
9AM. We assess the needs in town. We visit the IDP camps and assess the extent of the emergency. I was mostly struck by the lack of access to water. Lines of jerry cans spread for hundreds of meters and the flow of water from the water points is very low. There are hours of waiting to get only 20 liters of water. The city lives in slow motion. Its original inhabitants have moved to south and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have no income to buy food. They are living in extremely precarious conditions and hygiene is deplorable. Many children are malnourished and a measles epidemic is raging.
12AM. We set up medical consultations in the GG camp. This is the largest IDP camp in the city. We provide first aid and send children in critical condition to the mother and child health center. The needs are enormous. The teams are overwhelmed. I accompanied a mom from GG camp to the mother and child health center. She had a baby on her back and a five-year-old in hand. Her two- year-old son was in critical condition, suffering from dehydration and severe malnutrition. I carried him to the health center to receive care.
3PM. We return to Maiduguri. We write up our assessment as soon as possible and send it to other international organizations. We decide to send a full team to Monguno. Since our visit, our teams continue to treat patients and several other international organizations have also set up operations in the city, including IRCC, OCHA, UNICEF, and MSF. Humanitarian assistance is taking place, but the needs are still enormous.