UN Warns of Humanitarian Crisis in the Lake Chad Region

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By Zacheaus Somorin

The United Nations has warned of humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region if immediate proactive actions are not taken.  More than 9 million people affected by the Boko Haram-related conflict across the Lake Chad Basin – 76 per cent of whom are in Nigeria – are grappling with dire conditions that will worsen if immediate humanitarian needs are not met, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, said as he concluded a four-day visit to Niger and Nigeria.

“The situation in the Lake Chad Basin is unique,” said USG O’Brien, “Environmental degradation, poverty, under-development and violent extremism are converging to create a complex and multi-faceted crisis, and only with comprehensive coordination from humanitarian, development and security actors will we be able to deliver for people who are suffering so terribly.”

In Borno State, Mr. O’Brien visited a camp in Konduga locality hosting some 1,600 displaced people. Around 20,000 internally displaced persons are living in communities close by. Insecurity in the area means that people are unable to access humanitarian assistance, leaving them in desperate need of food, clean water, basic services and protection. Venturing more than a few km outside the camp to fetch firewood carries the risk of attack or abduction by Boko Haram.

“Eleven months ago the people in this camp were torched out of their homes by Boko Haram.  We have to listen to them. We must respond to what they actually need,” said Mr. O’Brien. “Our responsibility as humanitarians is to identify and meet with great urgency the immediate needs of saving lives and protecting civilians. At the same time, we need to make sure that girls and women are protected, and young boys are not taken to camps by factions of the fighting forces.  We must make sure that there are opportunities for education, and for families to stay together.”

“It’s not enough to deliver aid today. We must end need tomorrow, as well.  To stop Boko Haram and to protect women and children we must first recognize that de-radicalisation is an essential part of humanitarian work, and part of the platform to effective development.”

As he departed for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Mr. O’Brien called on global leaders to share the responsibility to prevent and end conflict, and to support countries hosting people forced into displacement. “Aid agencies in Nigeria have appealed for US$248 million for 2016, and of this only $43 million has been received.  Investing in humanitarian action now is the best way