Massive humanitarian crisis in Lake Chad region

A High Level Conference on the Lake Chad Region is taking place in Berlin, Germany, 3-4 September. Africa’s Lake Chad region, which includes parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, is facing a massive humanitarian crisis driven by poverty, climate change and conflict.

Fishermen Moussa Maï, 60 years old, and Hassane Issa, 28 years old, take their boat onto Lake Chad to fish. They arrived in Kaya village in 2016, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in their home village. Caritas supports food security in the region. Photo by Michael Stulman/Catholic Relief Services

Militant group Boko Haram has been fighting for at least nine years in northeast Nigeria, raiding across the border into the region’s three other countries. More than 30,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million displaced.

Caritas is working in each of the four countries to help some of the millions of people affected by the crisis by protecting civilians; supporting land rights and livelihoods; peacebuilding; and improving education and health services.

At the Berlin conference, Caritas will use its long experience working among local communities to make a series of recommendations to governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs:

  • Caritas will advise that the protection Lake Chad Basin Humanitarian Crisis of civilians must be the cornerstone of any humanitarian response as women and girls continue to experience high levels of sexual violence; and men and boys are vulnerable to forced conscription or abduction into armed groups.
  • People’s access to fertile land has become more challenging with increasing desertification and other climate-induced and demographic pressures. Clear government policies are needed to work on the root causes of land conflicts, encourage poor farmers to stay in rural areas and invest in ecological conservation.
  • Governments should encourage local peaceful coexistence by collaboration and by pooling social services in the border areas; integration of the economies; and facilitation of police procedures at the borders.
  • Governments and humanitarian groups should devise education programmes that contribute towards building an active civil society with communities aware of their rights and how to obtain them.
  • Donors should support livelihood programmes which enable people to provide for themselves and their families. International humanitarian groups must ensure that national and local actors are at the centre of coordination and decision-making in humanitarian responses.