Saturday, 23 January 2021

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Does the Lake Chad Basin need another famine before we tackle its problems?

Toby Lanzer, United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General Sahel. ©UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The Lake Chad Basin is facing a complex humanitarian emergency situation. According to Toby Lanzer, the United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for the Sahel, more than 11 million people in the region around Lake Chad are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

“Nobody is hearing the message we have been beaming for the past nine months about the deepening crisis across the Lake Chad Basin” stated Mr. Lanzer. “Seven million people are in a state of severe food insecurity. They are on the verge of starvation. “The peoples’ lives have been ravaged by poverty, by climate change, but in particular by the violence of Boko Haram. The group remains very difficult to control, and paralyzes commerce and trade across the Lake Chad Basin”.

Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer at food distribution site in Yida refugee camp (South Sudan). ©UNOCHA
Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer at food distribution site in Yida refugee camp (South Sudan). Photo: UNOCHA

In the past few months, the region has seen a new upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram. Vital infrastructure such as health centres, schools, water pipelines, bridges and roads have been destroyed. Access to basic services in the conflict-affected areas has been severely diminished. There has been a significant contribution to combat the crisis by the US, the UK, France and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Organisation (ECHO), “Nevertheless,” said Mr Lanzer, “most Member States of the European Union are lagging behind in understanding how severe the situation is, and that not engaging now, means engaging later, at a much greater cost”.

Lake Chad villagers after Boko Haram attacked their village in Chad | ©OCHA/Ivo Brandau
More than 100 people had to flee from one of the small islands in Lake Chad after Boko Haram attacked their village in Chad.  Photo: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

According to the United Nations, 485.000 children are acutely malnourished. Two hundred children will die every day throughout the Lake Chad Basin, unless we act now. Food insecurity in Nigeria’s north-east alone has doubled since March 2016. There is an argument for more aid from European Member States, as a large number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and Europe originally come from this region around Lake Chad. As Mr Lanzer says, “We have to tackle the problem here and now”. 

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