Suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Monday attacked Rann, leaving “thousands of people” running across the border to safety in neighbouring Cameroon.
In December, the insurgents had attacked the town, burning a UNICEF clinic— the only healthcare centre in the town.
Médecins Sans Frontières also known as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international humanitarian medical organisation, on Wednesday said many are in a state of shock following the attack.
The organisation said it is providing food, water and emergency medical care to people arriving by foot in the Cameroonian border town of Bodo, roughly four miles from Rann.
“Our team in Bodo estimates that some 8,000 people arrived yesterday, and we expect several thousand more may come today,” Hugues Robert, MSF programme manager for Nigeria, said in a statement.
“We are preparing to assist 15,000 people with food, water and medical care over the coming days. Many were in a state of shock and were clearly distressed by what they had witnessed. Now they have lost all that they have and need absolutely everything.”
Children and pregnant women have reportedly spent nights outdoors as there are no shelters.
Many parts of the town of Rann were reportedly razed during the attack, including market and food stores. A warehouse, office and pharmacy belonging to MSF were also looted and burnt.
According to Isa Sadiz Bwala, an MSF nurse who visited Rann to assess medical needs, most of the residents have fled to Bodo, while some remained.
“What struck me when we arrived was the silence. Usually Rann bustles with life, but yesterday it was eerie and quiet, like a graveyard,” Bwala said.
“Usually kids run around and play, but yesterday the only ones I saw were standing around quietly, looking anxious. The town has been devastated and I was devastated to see it. Many parts of the town have been burnt. There was still smoke drifting in the sky and the fires were still burning in places.
“I met a woman who was just back from the burial of her elderly mother, who had died inside her burning home. She burnt to death inside because she couldn’t escape the fire.
“MSF’s base, office and pharmacy have been burnt to the ground. All that’s left are piles of ashes. When I arrived, the tent where we store our equipment was still on fire. The buildings of other humanitarian organizations have also been looted and burnt. Luckily, all of our staff from Rann are safe. Several have fled to Cameroon, along with the majority of the population of Rann.
“We evacuated one man with a gunshot wound. I was told that other people had been injured too, but it seems they have left for Cameroon. I saw a long line of people leaving for Cameroon—women, children and men, of all ages. Some had donkeys but many were just carrying their belongings. The ones I spoke to said they were leaving because they were too afraid to stay. There is not much left for them to stay for anyway: their homes are gone, and I don’t know what they would live on. The market was burnt and looted— food stores also.”
Calling on all warring parties to respect safety of civilians, Robert said the people of Borno suffer endless violence and it is devastating they continue to pay price for the conflict.
In March, the insurgents killed one of the health workers abducted in the town.
Sanni Usman, army spokesman, is yet to respond to inquiries on the attack.
Editor’s note: This picture was used for illustration