Nearly 10 million people, or half the population of the conflict-hit Lake Chad Basin region need humanitarian assistance as the decade-long conflict drags on. Some 2.5 million people are now displaced. Hunger and malnutrition remain high. Abduction, killings and rights violations are also widespread. Humanitarian response has been accelerated over the past three years, with many more affected people receiving assistance. This year, the humanitarian community is seeking US$1.3 billion to provide food, water, shelter, healthcare and safeguard the rights and dignity of the conflict-affected.
Protecting civilians amid persistent violence
The region is facing a severe protection crisis. The armed violence that has affected large parts of the Lake Chad Basin is stretching to its tenth year. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have lived in displacement sites and refugee camps for years, grappling with extreme hardship and deprivation. Many civilians have suffered abuse and rights violations and are deeply traumatised by the violence.
It is critical to strengthen the protection of civilians, especially women and girls, and work towards preventing sexual and gender-based violence as well as enhance support to survivors. Women and girls face high risks of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse primarily by armed groups, but also by men in uniform.
Thousands of civilians have also been killed or abducted and many families separated.
The recurrent attacks and insecurity as well as security measures have restricted free movement. Farming, trade, transhumance and other activities have been significantly affected, depriving millions of people of their means of survival and limiting access to basic services. Displaced people are also unable to move freely in and out of camps.
In January 2019, the Governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria reaffirmed their commitment to the Abuja Action Statement on civilian protection in the Lake Chad Basin region. The agreement comprises a range of actions to enhance protection and respond to the most urgent needs of refugees, internally displaced persons and other affected populations.
Humanitarian needs still high
Humanitarian needs remain high. The persistent violence and its impact on the lives of millions of people across the Lake Chad Basin mean that many families and communities still require help to survive.
Humanitarian assistance has been significantly stepped up over the past three years, with millions more people receiving aid. Relief assistance needs to be sustained and international support increased to provide adequately to those in need. The prevalent insecurity and inadequate funding are some of the main hurdles to effective relief assistance.
To sustain relief operations, the protection of aid workers and humanitarian assets is paramount. While providing life-saving assistance, aid workers have unfortunately come under attack. In 2018, six aid workers were killed in Nigeria and one is still held captive.
The prevailing insecurity has forced the suspension of operations and withdrawal of humanitarian workers in some locations, leaving affected communities without access to basic services and assistance.
As insecurity and recurrent armed attacks prevent the return of millions of displaced people to their homes, efforts towards lasting solutions are necessary to increase access to basic services and livelihoods. The protracted crisis calls for an early shift towards self-sufficiency. The displaced need not wait for the conflict to be fully resolved to start rebuilding their lives.
In addition, steps towards increased collaboration between humanitarian and development strategies need to be sustained and strengthened.
Greater economic and infrastructure investment are required to complement humanitarian action and decrease dependence on relief aid.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.