Healthcare services have collapsed in the northern part of Nigeria’s Borno state as doctors, nurses and pharmacists flee for their lives from brutal violence unleashed by Islamist Boko Haram militants.

Medical professionals say health services in the region have largely shut down, with mortality rates and vaccination programmes severely hit and pressure heaped on the skeletal staff that remain.

“The whole healthcare system in northern Borno has collapsed and healthcare delivery is nil,” said Musa Babakura, a surgeon at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).

Babakura said the situation was a “growing health crisis”, with the sick forced to trek vast distances to receive medical attention and vaccination programmes for children have been compromised.

Violence by Boko Haram militants has raged since 2009, but has been particularly ferocious in recent weeks, with some 500 people killed in suspected Islamist attacks since the start of the year.

Hospitals and clinics have not escaped raids, even after Nigeria’s government imposed emergency rule on Borno and two other northeastern states in May last year.

Medical personnel have been kidnapped, either for ransom or to treat wounded fighters in Boko Haram’s ranks, while pharmacies — mostly run by Christians — have faced armed robberies and looting.

The insecurity has forced local people to cross into neighbouring Cameroon in search of treatment, with pregnant women and the infirm using donkeys and auto-rickshaws to negotiate the difficult terrain.

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