The United Nations says 400,000 children are now at risk from a famine in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within the next few months.
An internally displaced person, Fati Adamu, said she has not seen three of her six children nor her husband since Boko Haram militants attacked her hometown in northeast Nigeria in an hail of bullets.
She is among thousands of refugees at the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, the city worst hit by a seven-year-old insurgency that has forced more than two million people to flee their homes.
They will depend on expensive food aid; malnutrition will remain bad, nutrition will go down and income will spiral down, there won't be any dignity.
“What happened is that Boko Haram attacked us and drove us out, it’s six months now since I last saw my relatives and that’s how I came to this camp and I’ve been in the camp since,” she said.
A push against the jihadists by the Nigerian army and soldiers from neighboring countries has enabled troops to enter remote parts of the northeast in the last few months, revealing tens of thousands on the brink of starvation and countless families torn apart.
“It’s not enough. Also, after I collect the food, in two weeks the food will finish and I will start to beg the people because of the hunger,” Another displaced person Bukaralhaji Bukar said.
The start of the dry season has seen a surge in suicide bombings, some of which have targeted camps, including one at Bakassi in October which killed five people.
“They will depend on expensive food aid; malnutrition will remain bad, nutrition will go down and income will spiral down, there won’t be any dignity, they will remain in the camps, they will become easy targets for other armed groups. They might have to migrate again maybe even up to Europe,” said Food and Agriculture Organisation Official, Tim Vassen.
At least 15 camps, mostly on the outskirts of Maiduguru, the Borno state capital, are home to thousands of people unable to return home and surviving on food rations.
“For instance many of them are malnourished which is already bad enough but they also developed cases like malaria which further worsens their illnesses because they can’t eat and start vomiting and you know,” said Dr saac Bot of Save the Children Charity..
In the center of Maiduguri, life seems to be returning to normal. Food markets are bustling but soldiers in pick-ups clutching rifles are reminders of the need for vigilance.