As malaria season hits the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, home to thousands of people displaced by conflict, Swedish doctor Mårten is fighting to save the lives of the most vulnerable children.
Courtney Bercan, a nurse from Vancouver, Canada, worked with Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on a search-and-rescue boat in the Mediterranean in 2016, the Dignity I. In December 2018, MSF was forced to stop operations of its last rescue boat in the Mediterranean, the Aquarius, due to political pressure from several European countries. This news triggered harrowing memories for Courtney.
“Unaccompanied Minors” rescued by Aquarius roughly fall into two categories: those who are close to 18 and those who are nowhere near that age, travelling without a responsible adult. The younger members of this are as young as nine. Imagine being nine years old and taking local transit alone. Now imagine crossing a continent and a sea by yourself. Or, as we sometimes see, crossing the continent and the sea while caring for up to three younger siblings.
"Three days ago - on a day with an exceptionally high number of boats and refugees needing rescue at sea - there were more young children present than I have seen since I started this assignment"
Courtney writes from the Intensive Care Unit of the Balbala Slum Malnutrition Project in Djibouti City