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Food aid stampede: 11 injured and four others admitted for emergency care

30 August 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

Chaos as huge and uncontrollable crowd storms Borno State government’s palliative food aid distribution centre in Damboa

Several people fainted and 11 were injured, four seriously, in a stampede that occurred on Monday in the Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State when a huge crowd of people trampled over others to collect the government’s promised palliative food aid packages.
The distribution of palliative food aid was announced by President Bola Tinubu at the beginning of this month. Each of the 36 states and the federal capital territory in Nigeria received ₦5 billion and five trucks of rice.

The aid was meant for the most vulnerable people throughout the country to help cushion their living conditions which made it impossible for them to pay exorbitant food prices.

Borno State governor Babagana Umara Zulum visited Damboa on Sunday evening as beneficiaries who qualified were collecting tokens needed to acquire the food packages.

Zulum’s media team said the state government had identified and selected the most vulnerable people to receive the palliative food aid, adding that 18,000 heads of households were eligible in Damboa.

Zulum made it clear that it was impossible for the federal, state or local governments to provide food for entire communities.

“We have selected the most vulnerable persons across all local governments to help cushion the effect of hardship. Gwoza and Damboa in southern Borno are greatly affected by the food shortage and in the northern part, almost all the local government areas are experiencing food shortages,” he said.

Many of those who gathered at the Damboa Mega School, the distribution centre, on Sunday spent the night there to ensure they would not miss out.

The food trucks had arrived at the school on Sunday ready for the packages to be distributed on Monday.

On Monday the crowd continued to grow. They spent much of the day in the scorching heat under a blazing sun.

Residents told RNI that when the distribution began it was at first calm. But as more people rushed to the school, the crowd became uncontrollable and a stampede ensued. They said several people fainted, 11 were injured and four were left unconscious having been trampled on during the stampede.

They said security personnel could not control the crowd because they were outnumbered. As soon people began the stampede, the distribution of food was stopped.

On Tuesday more security personnel were brought in and the distribution continued.

Abubakar Ali was among those trampled in the stampede and left unconscious.

“The rollout was calm in the beginning but as more people heard about the distribution of food aid packages, they rushed to the school. Things got out of hand when people started to storm the place. It was hugely congested and people were trampling over one another to get the food.

“Because of the scorching sun, I could not breathe and I felt as if I was suffocating. I was told later I fell unconscious to the ground.”

Ali said the next thing he remembered was waking up in hospital.

“I remember being in the queue and having difficulty breathing. I learnt only later that I had been found unconscious and rushed to hospital.”

Mustapha Mala, a civilian joint task force member, said: “It was a sunny day and the weather was extremely hot. The crowd was huge and they completely outnumbered us. It was difficult for us to control them and the next thing people were trampling over others to get to the distribution centre.

“We tried our best to control the crowd, but unfortunately we couldn’t. When the stampede began, distribution of the food aid was stopped. We were able to get more security personnel in to help on Tuesday and the food aid packages were successfully distributed.”

Mala said several people fainted, 11 people were injured and four were left unconscious after they were trampled in the stampede.

“We took 11 people to hospital. Their injuries were not serious and they were treated and discharged. The four unconscious men were admitted to the hospital emergency room.”

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