SEATTLE, Washington — The Lake Chad Basin has not been home to so many starving children since the war with Biafra in the late 60’s. With ongoing famine and the repercussions of a Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern parts of this region, the Lake Chad Basin Crisis ranks among the top ten for 2017 and is likely to worsen for this troubled region where Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria meet.
This region has seen decades of conflict. Though the Darfur conflict is no longer headline news, ramifications continue to plague the region. Over 300,000 Sudanese refugees live in Chad, a country that suffers from poverty and a harsh arid climate. Another 74,000 refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria live in Chad’s south. The Sila region hosts 62,000 refugees in three camps that have been in existence for more than a decade, operating on a water supply system designed to meet the needs of only 7,000 people.
The Lake Chad Basin crisis has been made critical because many communities have missed consecutive planting seasons. There has been little farming activity due to the presence of security forces, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Boko Haram has been responsible for the destruction of farms and continued attacks on civilians. Much of the otherwise rich agricultural land is full of landmines as well, and there is no program in place to address this.
Insurgents remain in the rural areas outside villages. This has been a factor in preventing foreign aid as well as the re-institution of fully functioning government services. According to a July 2016 multi-agency alert and an October 2016 Cadre Harmonise Analysis, food security issues are severe and there is a real risk of famine. Levels of malnutrition and mortality are likely to remain elevated as a result of poor nutrition, vulnerability to disease and inadequate humanitarian response. The Lake Chad Basin crisis requires a coordinated international response.
An estimated 4.7 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in the Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states of northeast Nigeria. There are three million in Borno alone. Enough evidence was gathered by the global aid partnership IPC to determine that a famine occurred in the inaccessible Borno towns of Bama and Banki.
Large-scale aid projects have been in progress in the northeast since 2016, but so far only one million people have received food assistance. People who are displaced or living in inaccessible areas are at the highest risk for the worst health outcomes.
Chad ranks 184th out of 187 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index. In addition to the current and increasing food insecurity, there are very few opportunities for economic growth in the region. The region’s primary export, oil, has fallen approximately 40 percent in one year.
As the Lake Chad Basin crisis conditions are only expected to deteriorate without serious interventions from foreign aid agencies, Refugees International has prepared an eight-point plan that thoroughly documents expectations for international aid agencies. It also outlines the need for the Chadian government to strengthen healthcare services and pay for all necessary salaries and equipment for a Detachment for the Protection of Humanitarians and Refugees.
While there has been criticism of a shortfall on the part of foreign aid agencies, as well as a lack of reporting on the Lake Chad Basin crisis, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson called upon regional organizations and humanitarian agencies in September, rallying the support of Belgium, Italy, the U.K. and the United States. As a result, $163 million in humanitarian support was earmarked for the Lake Chad Basin crisis specifically to scale up life-saving support measures and develop long-term sustainable solutions.
U.N. agencies and other NGOs have worked to deliver financial assistance to six million people in northeast Nigeria, funding 27 percent of the $739 million required for the needs of the population. Along with the remainder of this funding, the people of the Lake Chad Basin need local government to do more than just combat insurgency. Once Boko Haram have been removed from an area, support for communities to return to their normal, productive lives will be the quickest route back to sustainable prosperity.
– Addison Grace Evans