Rescue Mission for Lake Chad Basin
Owing to the challenges at the Lake Chad Basin which has had adverse effects on member countries such as Nigeria, experts have called for concerted efforts to address the situation, Ugo Aliogo reports
At the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Muhammadu Buhari, had called for international engagement to accelerate the recovery efforts in the Lake Chad Basin and address the root causes of the conflict in the region.
He noted that what was required was continuous and robust UN cooperation with national governments and sub-regional and regional organisations such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).
He said the cooperation would enhance capacity in conflict prevention, conflict management and peace building.
Buhari, noted that as a major source of livelihood to more than 45 million inhabitants in the region, its shrinking meant loss of livelihoods, poverty and vulnerability to the activities of extremists and terrorist groups.
He explained that the instability caused in the sub-region intensifies internal displacement leading to intense economic competition especially between farmers and herdsmen.
The request for aid assistance from the ECOWAS, AU, LCBC and the need for a robust collaboration between UN and national governments by Buhari, came at a time when the Secretary- General, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Jan Egeland, said $1.6 billion (about N5.8 billion) was required for this 2018 urgent humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad region.
He said the assistance became necessary as the nine-year conflict in the Lake Chad Basin, had dramatically affected the lives of 11 million people.
Egeland, revealed that the victims of conflict relied on humanitarian assistance to survive in Boko Haram insurgency affected basin.
“The insurgency as well as military operations across the four countries has displaced 2.4 million people and left five million people food insecure, while significantly reducing economic activity,” said Egeland in the statement.
He said: “The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the local economies and people´s livelihoods, and has also led to a high number of civilian casualties and grave abuses, such as the recruitment of children by armed groups sexual violence and abductions.”
He said the current security situation further impedes the humanitarian actors’ access to people in need of life-saving support.
Egeland further noted that with over 800,000 people still live in hard-to-reach areas with no access to humanitarian assistance, while military operations in Lake Chad Islands prohibit organisations from providing assistance to victims of conflict.
On life-saving and protection in region, Egeland said: “This year’s conference must not only continue this life-saving operation, but must make protection of vulnerable children, women and men a top priority.
“Conflict-affected families depend on the international community to put the lives of civilians over and beyond competing political agendas, such as their war on terror.”
He warned that humanitarian needs remained massive last year and would continue in 2018 and beyond, and lamented that eight months into the year.
He added that only 26 per cent of the appeal for funding to Cameroon had been raised and the humanitarian appeal to support people affected by the crisis in Nigeria was less than 50 per cent funded.
According to him, the United Nations estimated $1.6 billion requirement for this year’s help to 10.7 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The crisis in north-east Nigeria is far from being resolved,” he further warned.
He said thousands of desperate people continue to arrive into congested areas on a weekly basis either from ‘inaccessible’ areas or across borders, stating that some are in state of severe malnutrition.
European Union Support
As part efforts to support the recovery process in the region, the European Union (EU) had in September announced the release of €138 million to assist vulnerable communities in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
It was observed that the condition of people in the region has continued to worsen due to prolonged violence, insecurity and environmental degradation.
It was learnt from the statement in the Media Unit of EU that the amount which is a combination of humanitarian and development assistance is part of an overall EU aid package for the region worth €232 million.
The Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said the disastrous effects of armed conflict and violence in the Lake Chad basin have had a serious impact in an area already plagued by poverty and the extreme effects of climate change.
“The EU is committed to continue to help the most vulnerable. Today, we are stepping up our humanitarian and development assistance. What is crucial is for all parties to the conflict to ensure full access throughout the region so our aid can reach those in need,” he added.
Similarly, the statement quoted the
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, as saying that the humanitarian situation in the area remains pressing.
He added that the EU was ready to assist in preparing the region move from conflict to peace and from fragility to resilience.
Mimica said the new funding would invest in social services and tackle poverty, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change.
“We will also boost some of our existing programmes in north-east Nigeria by strengthening girls’ education and reintegration efforts, as well as health and nutrition services,” the statement added.
The package, according to the EU is part of its strategy to better link its humanitarian and development support with Nigeria and Chad being both pilot countries in this effort.
While it noted that the EU between 2014 and 2017 had provided close to €700 million in humanitarian aid and development assistance to the region, a breakdown of the new aid package showed that Nigeria received €47 million, Niger €15 million, Chad €11.8 million and Cameroon €15.1 million.
The request for aid assistance from the ECOWAS, AU, LCBC and the need for a robust collaboration between UN and national governments has been described by former Governance Adviser/Regional Coordinator, Department for International Development (DFID), Dr. Sina Fagbenro-Byron, as an effort that would wreck the country.
Fagbenro-Byron, who is also KOWA Party Presidential Candidate stated that because Buhari is not very well engaged with human capacity in Nigeria, the president doesn’t know the human resources available in the country.
Fagbenro-Byron, said in order to address the Lake Chad crisis, there was need to build a water pipeline from Calabar to extract water from the Atlantic Ocean to refill the Lake Chad systemically.
The presidential candidate explained that the difference between carrying water from the Atlantic Ocean was that salt water cannot be carried from the ocean and dump it in a lake, otherwise the purpose is going to be defeated.
He further stated that along the line of the pipeline, there should be construction of desalination plant to desalinate the water and extract salt, do mini-dams, mini-irrigations, until the water ends in the Lake Chad Zone.
According to Fagbenro-Byron: “Reclaiming the Lake Chad with the immediate commencement of the feasibility, design, mobilization and construction of a water pipeline from the Atlantic ocean off Cross River State to Borno State to reclaim Lake Chad with the added economic externalities including desalination plants and power stations along the route.
“Therefore, we shall prioritise development against SDG 7 and 13.
“The difference between carrying water from the Atlantic Ocean is that you cannot just carry salt water and dump it in a lake, otherwise you are going to defeat the purpose.
“So what you do is that along the line of the pipeline, you construct what is known desalination plant to desalinate the water and in the process, you can extract salt, do mini-dams, mini-irrigations, until the water ends in the Lake Chad Zone.
“If this project is done, it is going to be the most extensive and exhaustive indigenous project. In carrying this project, the technical assistant should come from the University Community.
“There are hydrologists and Engineers in the University Community. The engineering or calculation when it comes to the issue of desalination. People will tell that your desalination plants are very expensive. They are expensive when you procure them from the wrong source. There are several ways of constructing desalination pipes.”
In his reaction to the issue, the founder of Lufasi Nature Park, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, noted that it is highly commendable that President Buhari has been speaking regularly at different forums about the need to stop the massive degradation of Lake Chad and to regenerate this lake that was once one the largest inland water bodies in the world.
Majekodunmi, commended the president for placing specific focus on the vast number of people that are totally dependent on the lake for their livelihood and the horrendous consequences of these people becoming permanently internally displaced.
He described it as a clarion call to Africa and the world that there must be strong and speedy check on this climate change monster that is threatening, “our very future.”
He added that there was need to understand that climate change which is causing rapid aridity in this region is not the only cause of the drying up of this vital water body.
According to Majekodunmi, “Other anthropogenic causes include upstream dams affecting the natural replenishment of the lake, massive deforestation of the savannah exacerbating the aridity in the region, over grazing of surrounding areas causing top soil erosion increasing sand storms making the lake bed more shallow.
“Lake Chad is a classic example of how our irresponsible and uncaring use and abuse of the God given resources of this remarkable and unique planet are beginning to have catastrophic consequences.
“Whilst we do by all means need to make every effort to prevent this great lake from drying up entirely, more importantly, we need to tackle the causes of this environmental degradation so that it will not reoccur or happen elsewhere, after all prevention is better than cure.”