In 2016, the operational and security situation in the Lake Chad Basin countries remained extremely challenging for Governments, humanitarians, Nigerian refugees, IDPs and host communities in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The region is notoriously characterised by extreme poverty, harsh climatic conditions and poor infrastructure. A great majority of the region’s inhabitants have limited access to basic services and a number of epidemic outbreaks did nothing to improve their situation throughout the year. As of 31 December 2016, the Lake Chad Basin countries were hosting 200,987 Nigerian refugees. The conflict had also internally displaced 192,912 persons in Cameroon’s Far North region, 82,260 in Chad’s Lake region and 184,230 persons in Niger’s Diffa region.
By mid-2016, the Nigerian Armed Forces, with support from the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), had succeeded in regaining territory formerly occupied by Boko Haram insurgents in north-eastern Nigeria, freeing an estimated 800,000 people in communities formerly held controlled by the terrorist group, mainly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. To a limited extent they were also able to neutralize Boko Haram cells in Chad, Cameroon and Niger. However, these gains were overshadowed by increased hit and run attacks from Boko Haram insurgents, including suicide bombings, kidnappings, abductions, forced recruitment, looting and livestock theft. Boko Haram abused populations on a wide scale and committed grave human rights violations including systematic acts of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Due to the volatile security situation, thousands of host community members in the three countries of asylum ended up in situations of displacement themselves.
Niger’s Diffa region experienced a severe setback in May and June, after the terrorist group had attacked military personnel, killing 32 and causing the displacement of 70,000 people over the course of one week, most of whom settled spontaneously alongside the Route Nationale 1 for security reasons, but with no immediate access to food, water, sanitation or other basic services, posing new challenges to the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, who had preferred to stay close to the border, decided to move towards protection services and safety, by registering in Minawao refugee camp. As a result, RRRP partners had to cope with a steadily growing population in an already congested camp. In addition, Nigerians from newly liberated areas in north-eastern Nigeria fled across the borders, to access humanitarian assistance, as conditions in Nigerian IDP camps were below minimum standards across the board.
Despite many setbacks, RRRP partners managed to meet a number of the key objectives outlined in the 2016 Nigeria RRRP.
At the political level, the most significant step was certainly the establishment of the Abuja Action Statement, a joint commitment made by the governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, to implement the Regional Strategic Protection Framework for the Lake Chad Basin situation. The Action Statement was signed at the Regional Protection Dialogue, organized in Abuja, Nigeria from 6 to 8 June 2016 by the Government of Nigeria and facilitated by UNHCR, where high-level government representatives of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, donors, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society discussed key protection concerns and priorities regarding the Lake Chad Basin.