Sunday, 22 January 2017

IDPs bombing: 68 surgeries conducted in 48 hours

No fewer than 68 surgeries have been conducted by medical workers of international aid organisations and the Borno State Government on victims of the accidental bombing of an internally displaced persons camp in
Rann, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.

A fighter jet of the Nigerian Air Force had on Tuesday attacked the camp, killing over 100 persons.

A surgeon with the International Committee of the Red Cross, who spoke on condition of anonymity, on Saturday, told SUNDAY PUNCH that between Friday and Saturday, 68 surgeries were carried out on some of the injured IDPs, who comprised mostly women and children.

The source added that more surgeries and efforts to stabilise the victims would be carried out on Sunday (today).

According to the surgeon, the cost of  treatment for the victims, which was said to be borne by the organisation and other sister aid agencies, has yet to be estimated.

The medical practitioner said, “Between Friday and Saturday, we did about 68 surgeries: 24 on Friday morning and 44 on Friday evening into Saturday. The ICRC surgical teams are exceptional. The cost of treatment are borne by the ICRC and we do not even have the estimates yet.

“We received more than 100 injured people from Rann on Thursday. The surgical teams in Maiduguri have been extremely busy since then, operating on mostly women and children.”

In a report by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) obtained on Saturday, a doctor narrated how a six-year-old victim fared, and how a six-month-old baby battled for survival inside an aircraft.

He said, “A patient I saw was a six-year-old boy whose palm had been punctured and burnt by a piece of shrapnel, leaving his hand necrotic. The chances of him losing his hand are high.

“There are no hospitals in Rann – the nearest health facility is at least 30 km away, in Ngala. It takes two hours to get there by car because of the poor roads and the insecurity, which requires all vehicles to have a military escort. That’s why we were evacuating patients to Maiduguri.

“My colleague and I personally evacuated a number of severely injured patients, taking them to various hospitals in Maiduguri. One was a baby of six months, who had a piece of shrapnel embedded in his neck, leaving a puncture wound. In the helicopter, the child was crying uncontrollably.

“He was obviously dehydrated and his mother asked if she could give him something to drink. I handed her the water I had, and she poured some into her hand and into the child’s mouth. He gulped it in a way that was surprising for a baby of six months. Within a short time, he had fallen asleep.

“The place where people are living in Rann is a wide, open space, like a desert, with small trees growing here and there. The displaced people are living with the host community in makeshift shelters made of branches, sacks, old clothes and straw.

“People we talked to there said it was extremely difficult to get enough to eat, mainly due to the insecurity. Most people make a living by selling firewood which they collect in the bush, but to go anywhere, they need permission from the military. They have to go very deep into the bush to find the firewood, and they are fearful of Boko Haram’s presence in the area and of being attacked.”

Since attacks on the Rann IDPs camp by Boko Haram on Thursday, survivors in the camp have been living in fear of the insurgents.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who visited the camp on Friday, however, assured the community of military presence.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, told our correspondent that the troops had a tight security arrangement in Rann.

He confirmed that 15 terrorists were killed in the area during the attack.

Usman said, “It is true that there was an attempt by the suspected Boko Haram terrorists. Our troops dealt with them decisively. The number of terrorists killed was 15 and one of them (was) arrested.

“I will not disclose our operational secrets or intents, but I assure you that there is adequate security arrangement in the area.”



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