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Refugee Crisis in northeastern Nigeria by Sven Torfinn

With wars raging across the Middle East, huge numbers of desperate refugees still arriving on the borders of Europe and the United States caught up in the final throes of an acrimonious and slander-ridden presidential campaign, there is an ongoing refugee crisis and humanitarian catastrophe in Africa’s second biggest economy that is being largely overlooked.

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A child walks through a puddle in Muna Garage, a large IDP camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri where an estimated 50,000 people live. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

Since 2009, the Islamist militants of Boko Haram have bombed, murdered, raped and pillaged their way across the arid northeast of Nigeria, leaving over 20,000 civilians dead and another 2.6 million people displaced from their homes.

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A man stands among the ruins of a building in Mainuk, a village completely destroyed by repeated Boko Haram attacks. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

Tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries – to Chad, Niger and Cameroon – where some have become the victims of small bands of fighters pursuing them like game. In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index declared Boko Haram the world’s deadliest terror group merciless campaign of carnage.

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Muna Garage, a large IDP camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri where an estimated 50,000 people live. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

Yet while the kidnap of almost 300 girls from a school in Chibok briefly concentrated international outrage on the crimes of Boko Haram, culminating in a viral twitter campaign that called on the Nigerian government to “Bring Back Our Girls” – a campaign joined by Michelle Obama – the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people suffering the consequences of group’s reign of terror has largely been forgotten. But the suffering continues.

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Fati Uselan (20), who was brought into Gwoza just a few days previously after she was found by an army patrol in territory still occupied by the Islamist group Boko Haram, and her malnourished baby. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

Mercy Corps, an American humanitarian aid agency, estimates that some 800,000 people are living in burned out villages, far from any sources of aid or medical care. Agricultural production and markets have collapsed leading to severe food shortages which are putting tens of thousands of weak and malnourished children at risk of starvation.

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A burnt out car outside a destroyed shopping centre. The army ousted Boko Haram from the town of Gwoza in 2015. However, it was left largely destroyed and there is little food and almost no access to medical facilities. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

Of the US $ 739 million the United Nations had asked for to help the most desperate among those affected by Boko Haram, merely a quarter had been received by September 2016.

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A mother and her sick children wait for a consultation with one of two doctors who have made it to Gwoza with the aid of the military. Soldiers provide security in a territory where the surrounding hills are still occupied by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

The Norwegian Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), estimates that with 3.3 million refugees, Nigeria has the largest number of displaced people in Africa. Sven Torfinn visited norther Nigeria and documented the dire situation which many thousands of ordinary Nigerians find themselves in.

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A neighbourhood of half-built houses has been converted into a refugee camp for IDPs fleeing Boko Haram. Some people have places in the houses, while others are living in makeshift shelters around them. Nigeria. © Sven Torfinn

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