SAVING LIVES AND SEEKING LASTING SOLUTIONS
Nine years into the conflict, the humanitarian emergency in the Lake Chad region is among the most severe in the world. The crisis is unfolding in a region already affected by severe underdevelopment, poverty and climate change. The impact on the lives of around 17 million people is devastating, with women, youth and children bearing the brunt. In 2018, more than 10 million people require humanitarian assistance and protection.
The humanitarian response was expanded significantly in 2017, reaching over six million people with life-saving assistance and protection, and effectively averting a famine. But needs in the affected regions remain acute and will persist at large scale into 2019 and beyond. Support from the international community to national efforts will be essential in the coming months to ease hunger, provide water, shelter, hygiene, healthcare, protection and education, and help communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Without continued assistance, hard hit communities risk sliding back into distress. Eight months into 2018, only 40 per cent of the US$1.5 billion needed to assist 7.8 million conflict-affected people in the region have been received.
High food insecurity and malnutrition
Food insecurity is on the rise again as this year’s lean season has been one of the most difficult in years in many areas across the Lake Chad region. Prolonged displacement, insecurity, looting and destruction, shut markets and security measures have wrecked livelihoods. Five million people are acutely food insecure and require sustained and heightened food and livelihood assistance. In 2017, only massively scaled-up aid delivery helped avert a famine.
In much of the conflict-hit area, severe acute malnutrition has surpassed the emergency threshold. Half a million severely malnourished children across the region currently need life-saving assistance.
Protracted and recurrent displacement
Around 2.4 million people remain displaced by the nine-year conflict. Entire communities have been emptied and civilians continue to suffer frequent rights violations. Persistent armed attacks, insecurity and extreme deprivation stand in their way to returning home. New displacements are occurring even as some families return from refuge to areas near their homes. Over the past few months, thousands of civilians have been newly displaced and relief operations disrupted by attacks.
The humanitarian community stresses the primacy of voluntary, safe and dignified returns. In areas where communities can restart their lives, humanitarian and development actors are striving to ensure basic services and livelihood opportunities are in place, and urge donors and Governments to support returnees. In many villages, health centres, schools and other infrastructure have been devastated by the conflict, and personnel fled for safety.
Civilians suffer the worst effects of the violence
The protection of civilians remains at the centre of humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin. Villages, towns and even sites hosting displaced people recurrently come under attack, hitting civilians the hardest. Kidnappings, fatal attacks, sexual and genderbased violence, exploitation and abuse continue to occur. Since 2013, more than a thousand children in north-east Nigeria have been abducted by armed groups, and dozens have been forced to carry out attacks with explosives strapped to their bodies. Economically disenfranchised, families are enduring extreme hardship and are exposed to exploitation and abuse.
Seeking lasting solutions
Humanitarian action alone cannot address the root causes of persisting challenges and vulnerabilities in the Lake Chad Basin. The conflicthit areas are also suffering the chronic effects of underinvestment in social services, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change. Schools, health centres, roads, water supply are inexistent or inaccessible. Humanitarian response is being linked up to development initiatives, and greater investment in development especially at the local level must complement humanitarian action.