Regional Protection Strategic Framework: Responding to the protection crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, January 2017 - December 2018
Responding to the protection crisis in the Lake Chad Basin
Over 2.5 million people are forcibly displaced in the Lake Chad Basin region due to the Boko Haram insurgency, and new displacement continues. Resorting to terror, widespread sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), forced recruitment and suicide bombings, Boko Haram attacks on civilians persist. The context of ongoing insecurity poses particular challenges to ensuring an appropriate protection environment. The situation is further compounded by the fragile socio-economic context of the Sahel, which includes chronic poverty, harsh climatic conditions, recurrent epidemics, poor infrastructure and limited access to basic services.
Ongoing threats from Boko Haram in all affected countries as well as the absence of basic services have created acute humanitarian and protection risks for those impacted by the crisis, including refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and local communities. Renewed efforts are needed to support Governments in ensuring the protection of the affected populations.
Throughout 2016, Boko Haram insurgents continued to commit grave human rights violations and carry out attacks against civilians. Despite considerable advances in counter-insurgency operations, continued insecurity led to new large-scale and secondary displacements towards Cameroon and inside Niger. The end of 2016 and first months of 2017 have also seen an increase in attacks in north-eastern Nigeria, while the security situation in Chad’s Lake region, Cameroonian border areas and Niger’s Diffa region remains volatile and unpredictable.
In 2016, a great number of civilians were released from Boko Haram captivity in north-eastern Nigeria with the liberation of Local Government Areas (LGAs) where some 800,000 persons had been trapped over past years. Assessments conducted in newly recovered areas reveal severe humanitarian and protection conditions and a further scale up of the response will be necessary as new LGAs become more accessible to humanitarian actors. Still, many people remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors due to insecurity, particularly in Nigeria’s Borno State and border areas of Cameroon and Niger.
Today, the humanitarian and protection situation in Nigeria as well as in the border areas of Cameroon, Chad and Niger is dire. The violence has uprooted around 2.3 million civilians within their own countries, including over 1.8 million IDPs in Nigeria alone. In addition, some 200,000 Nigerian refugees have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
The protection issues are many and complex. The persistent threat of Boko Haram attacks on civilian sites – including the targeting of camps – remains a serious security and humanitarian protection risk. The security context and cross border expansion of Boko Haram has also led to restrictive measures by security actors around border areas and refugee and IDP locations, such as border closures and severe limitations on freedom of movement. Many persons have been displaced multiple times, which further erodes the self-protection capacities of individuals.
Access to rights are being limited, including the right to seek and enjoy asylum. Arrests and detention are also on the rise as civilians, including refugees and IDPs, are suspected of collaborating with Boko Haram insurgents. At the same time, in preparation for military interventions and due to insecurity, Governments have organized the relocation of civilians from border areas.
The crisis has adversely affected the most vulnerable civilian populations, particularly women and children, older persons and those with disabilities or serious medical conditions. Around 60 per cent of those displaced are children and the number of female and child-headed households is on the rise because male heads of households have either been disappeared, killed or fear to return to join their families.
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is widespread, and many people have suffered the trauma of violent experiences. Women, girls and boys remain the most vulnerable to SGBV and the most targeted by insurgents, with abductions, forced marriage, sexual slavery, use as suicide bombers and forced conscription.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than one million children have been forced out of school by Boko Haram-related violence in the region, which already suffered from high rates of children who have never participated in formal education before the crisis.
In addition, much of the population in the Lake Chad Basin lacks documentation, posing a risk of statelessness and impediments to accessing services and rights as well as complicating efforts to identify and register asylum-seekers and refugees.
Nor are the persons affected by the Boko Haram insurgency restricted to displaced persons. With the vast majority of displaced persons living in host communities, the impact on local populations is significant, as is the strain displacement has placed on limited resources and services throughout the region. Local economies and livelihoods have been disrupted by the conflict and security measures, which have included restrictions on movements and livelihoods activities.
Although conditions in much of north-eastern Nigeria are not yet conducive for return, IDPs and refugees have started to return, as observed in areas accessible for assessments. As of March 2017, close to 200,000 refugee returnees have been registered in Nigeria and a significant number of IDPs have returned, sometimes under conditions that have not been voluntary, safe and dignified. Many of these return movements have resulted in secondary displacements as areas of origin remain insecure and inaccessible.
The magnitude of the crisis occurring in a conflict characterized by systemic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law requires the response to be strategic, prioritised and focused. It demands a comprehensive response by protection and development actors to address not only immediate critical protection needs, but also the challenges at the core of the root causes fuelling the conflict and violence, such as issues of exclusion, marginalisation and abject poverty. In line with the commitments of the Abuja Action Statement, humanitarian and development actors must strengthen their efforts to support the Governments, through a comprehensive approach to establish and strengthen an appropriate protection and solutions environment for the affected populations
OVERARCHING STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
1 All refugees, IDPs and returning nationals have enhanced access to protection.
2 Civil-military coordination is strengthened to maintain the civilian character of refugee and IDP hosting areas.
3 Persons with specific protection risks are safe and receive appropriate preventive, responsive and restorative services.
4 Refugees and IDPs are assisted through a comprehensive solutions approach.
5 Refugees and other persons of concern receive documents and rights to nationality are upheld.