Some children, whose parents fled from Boko Haram attacks on their communities to hideouts on the mountains and caves in the Gowza Local Government Area in Borno State, have died as a result of hunger and malnutrition, Saturday PUNCH investigation has revealed.
Boko Haram insurgents have surrounded mountains and caves where hundreds of fleeing villagers are hiding following persistent attacks on border communities such as Gavva, Agapalagu, Chikide, Dushwale, Ngoshe and Ashigashiya, all in Gwoza Local Government Area in Borno State
Other villages affected by the Boko Haram onslaught include Attagara, Aganjara, Agapalawa, Amudo, Chinene, Pulka, Allahaw, Arboko, and Asgashiga.
Over 150 persons have been killed in attacks in the last two weeks, leaving property worth several billions of naira razed.
Over 1,000 people have also been displaced following the persistent invasions of communities in Gwoza Local Government Area. Some of the displaced villagers, who ran for their lives, fled and took refuge in mountains and caves for safety.
The villagers, according to the former Vice-Chairman, Gwoza Local Government Area, Mr. Francis Nduka, are now trapped in caves of Gathahure, Gjigga, Kunde, Hwa’a, Hrazah and Hembe hill settlements.
The stranded villagers have had to depend on wild fruits and roots with small food supply from nearby Pogu village; but right now there is no food left in the village.
Saturday PUNCH had exclusively reported on May 31, 2014, that the Boko Haram terrorist group was facing serious food shortage in its camps and this had led to increased attacks on villages in the North-Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe stealing food items and other domestic needs.
The violent group was forced to step up the looting of villages, markets and food stores due to the pressure to feed many insurgents and the over 200 schoolgirls abducted on April 14 in Chibok, Borno State.
The violent group also stole foodstuffs during an attack on villages in Borno on Wednesday.
The villagers, who attempted to descend from the hills, to look for food and bury their dead were shot by Boko Haram insurgents.
The district head of one of the communities under siege in Gwoza Local Government Area, Lawan John, reiterated that those trapped on the mountains could not gain access to food for days.
To further demonstrate that the villagers had been surrounded, the terrorists were said to have been moving on motorcycles shooting anybody at sight who tried to come out from the hideouts.
Due to the precarious situation, Saturday PUNCH learnt that a number of infant deaths had been recorded in the hideouts and there are fears that the death toll may increase if the military does not promptly deploy troops in the affected villages.
The Senator representing Borno South, Mohammed Ali Ndume, confirmed the development to Saturday PUNCH, while expressing fear that more people, especially children might lose their lives to hunger.
“The news reaching us is that some infants have been lost to malnutrition and hunger as their parents could not feed them properly,” he said.
Ndume reiterated that the people could die of hunger and starvation if nothing is done immediately to protect them.
He said, “Four communities have been totally wiped out by the insurgents who are still around the areas.
“Most men have had to flee into the caves with the women preparing food to take to them but since the area has run out of food there is hunger both on the land and in the caves.
“It is painful that we have food in Maiduguri that we have planned to take to them, but since the place is a no go area, our people are dying of hunger and starvation.”
The senator said that in spite of the appeal by the people for deployment of military personnel, the people of the area were left opened to Boko Haram siege.
He said he was told that the refugees from the area in Maiduguri, which stood at about 1,200 last Sunday, had risen to 2,000.
The immediate past vice-chairman of Gwoza Local Government Area, Mr. Francis Nduka, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “Our fear is that the military is taking too long to save our people who ran into caves and hilltops, and should this continue for a few more days, they may start dying of hunger or thirst as they may not have food or water in the caves.”
He added that “the Boko Haram members who already know where the villagers are hidden may run out of patience and attack them in the caves or on the hilltops.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Caretaker Committee Chairman, Dr. Hamman Ahmadu, said, “At present it looks like the battle of who blinks the eyelid first between our people and Boko Haram. Boko Haram insurgents are waiting for them to come down for food and get killed and our people who are without food or water are waiting for Boko Haram to go away.”
The member representing Gwoza in the House of Assembly, Ahmed Babawo, said the people of Gwoza East had been under siege for about two weeks without any military coming to their aid.