Author : Leon Usigbe
Affiliated organisations : Africa Renewal, UN
Site of publication : un.org
Type of publication : Article
Date of publication : 24 December 2019
About 10 million people living in the Lake Chad Basin are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UN agency says that thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) being sheltered in various camps in the region lack adequate accommodation, food, water and sanitation.
That Lake Chad, once one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million, is vanishing fast is no longer breaking news. What is new is the unique and complex humanitarian crisis around the basin, which is among the most severe in the world.
2.3 million people across the region are displaced; over 5 million are struggling to access enough food to survive; and half a million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Located in Northern Central Africa, Located in Northern Central Africa, Lake Chad borders four countries — Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. But the Lake Chad Basin covers almost 8% of the continent and spreads over seven countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger and Nigeria.
The water body has diminished by 90% since the 1960s due to overuse and climate change effects. Conflict between herders and farmers became common as livelihoods were lost. Families who relied on the lake started migrating to other areas in search of water.
Tackling the challenges
Governments of the affected countries are now battling on several fronts around Lake Chad. First, they are conducting a military offensive against the terrorists. A joint multinational task force made up of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and Benin continues to launch military strikes against the terrorists. Second, the governments want to end the violent conflict between herders and farmers over water and pasture. Third, they are trying to find a lasting solution to the drying of the lake, which is exacerbating poverty in the region.
The lake’s replenishment effort is being led by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, and supported by the eight countries that are members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the regional regulatory body of the basin’s water (Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Sudan).
The United Nations’ engagement in the Lake Chad Basin has taken the form of humanitarian assistance, development aid, human rights, justice and law enforcement, as well as preventing and countering terrorism, according to Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed.
Nigeria’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, the lead agency charged with the welfare of IDPs, maintains that IDPs’ durable options are to return home or be settled in host communities.
Governments need to integrate the IDPs and refugees into mainstream society by “empowering them to start some business or farming so that they can take care of their families,” Daniel Soetan, national coordinator of Goodwill Ambassadors of Nigeria, an NGO involved in distributing relief materials to IDPs, told Africa Renewal.
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