Throughout 2017, Nigeria’s Boko Haram crisis received remarkable political and donor attention even though the ongoing humanitarian emergency was overshadowed by alarming levels of food insecurity and severe malnutrition in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin (LCB) countries.
At the beginning of the year, Norway hosted the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, co-organized by Nigeria, Germany and the United Nations, to draw attention to what is one of the world’s largest humanitarian and protection crises.
Additionally in the first quarter, members of the Security Council visited the LCB to collect first-hand information. The mission resulted in UNSC Resolution 2349 (2017) on the Lake Chad Basin, unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 31 March, addressing Boko Haram’s presence in the region for the first time and expressing concern about the protection needs of civilians affected by terrorism, sexual exploitation and abuse, extra-judicial killings and torture. In parallel, insurgents were pushed out of their former strongholds in the region, but Boko Haram increased its use of guerrilla warfare as a result, causing multiple casualties through suicide bombings, violent incursions and kidnappings, which led to increased internal displacement across the region. At the end of 2017, the security situation continued to be unpredictable and volatile, with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, hosting some 207,773 Nigerian refugees and 470,028 IDPs.
UNHCR took the lead in jointly finalising a Regional Protection Strategic Framework with its partners, to respond to key protection issues in the LCB. As regards solutions and returns, the Governments of Cameroon, Nigeria and UNHCR signed a Tripartite Agreement on the Voluntary Return of Nigerian refugees, on 2 March 2017 in Yaoundé. Return will only be promoted by UNHCR once conditions are conducive in north-eastern Nigeria. In the meantime, refugees in Minawao camp in Cameroon were informed of their rights and the technical working groups met to agree on the next steps. While return intention surveys carried out in all three countries of asylum in 2017 showed that Nigerian refugees were not yet eager to permanently return to their areas of origin, many refugees in Cameroon and Niger returned momentarily and of their own accord to assess the conditions of their homes and villages. These pendular movements influenced the Nigerian Immigration Service’s (NEMA) statistics, in the form of peaks in return arrivals, as NEMA did not differentiate between those who stayed and those who went back to Cameroon and Niger.
Despite the prevailing security conditions, frequent IDPs movements, and humanitarian access challenges, RRRP partners managed to keep the humanitarian situation stable, achieving and even surpassing their 2017 objectives in most sectors. While refoulement and forced returns of Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers continued to be a sensitive topic on the political agenda in Cameroon, requiring frequent intervention at the diplomatic level, the Government of Niger, for its part, engaged in its most ambitious protection project yet, by organizing a census and registration exercise for the entire population in the Diffa region.
As regards basic assistance, food and nutrition supplements were provided unconditionally, but the livelihoods, shelter and WASH sectors struggled with scarce natural resources, lack of access to farm land and fishing activities and a lack of funding in all three countries. Given that the LCB crisis will most likely turn into a protracted situation, e orts need to be combined, to build on the capacity of existing infrastructures and enable Nigerian refugees to become less dependent on humanitarian assistance.
As regards coordination, a UNHCR mission representing HQ and the Dakar Regional Office went to Niamey and Diffa in June 2017 to assess the coordination of the refugee response in Niger. The mission consulted Government representatives, the ad interim HC/RC, sta from UNHCR and other UN agencies, NGOs and refugees. It was found that renewed focus on protection in particular, including conducting reliable protection baseline assessments (and the ongoing registration) helped to identify and raise awareness of the needs of refugees and provided the basis for all RRRP partners to better coordinate their respective responses. The participants provided concrete recommendations to improve coordination – many of them had been implemented by the end of the year.
The 2017 Nigeria RRRP received 60 per cent of the required funding*. All 36 RRRP partners wish to thank donors who contributed with their funds to continue assisting the people in need in the Lake Chad Basin, who are caught in suffering the consequences of a regional conflict that urgently requires a political solution.