Vital talks toward “stabilization” of Lake Chad Basin must tackle the existing humanitarian crisis and recognize need to protect people

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Governments and decision-makers must first resolve humanitarian and security problems before investing heavily into reconstruction efforts in the Lake Chad Basin, says Oxfam.

Otherwise a vital high-level initiative to “stabilize” the Lake Chad Basin, beginning at a Summit meeting in N’Djamena on Nov 2-4, will not properly succeed – and may even make the situation worse, the international aid agency said.

“It would be folly to think about a new stabilization strategy that, for instance, calls for donor investment into farming and livelihood projects if people cannot access their fields,” said Aurore Mathieu, Oxfam’s Campaigns Manager for the Lake Chad Basin.

“It would be folly to invest heavily, say, in rebuilding schools when the security situation is so bad in some places that the new buildings could be destroyed by fighting the next day or the next week.”

“Oxfam welcomes and supports any initiative that would help to stabilize this conflict area but it becomes a question of priorities. We believe that the security situation in some locations is still so fragile, and the humanitarian situation so dire, that these are problems a “stabilization” plan must first look to resolve,” Mathieu said.

Food insecurity is gradually deteriorating in all the Basin countries of Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad. 515,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition in the region.

Civilians continue to face significant threats of protection in militarized attacks, killings, and looting, especially on women who are particularly at risk of violence and sexual exploitation.

"If the stabilization strategy does not prioritize the protection of civilians and the food security of millions of families, the crisis will not end soon," Mathieu said.

"The Lake Chad Basin is the only area in West Africa where there is no sign of improvement in the food security situation – in fact, it’s getting worse. At the beginning of the year there were 7.1 million people in need of food. Today there are 7.2 million.”

In northeastern Nigeria, people still face the risk of famine. In Diffa (Niger) the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by 20% since the beginning of the year. In Cameroon more than 1.6 million people need help and in Chad, 345,000 more.

"We have nothing," says to Oxfam Haoua Ousmane, who fled her home 13 months ago and lives in an informal camp in Yarom, Chad. "We have nothing to eat, no money, no milk to give to our children." Before, Haoua lived on agriculture and small livestock, now he survives selling firewood and depends upon aid from humanitarian organizations.

Oxfam said that state-imposed security measures that restrict communities' access to their livelihoods such as fishing, farming, livestock, or trade, place a heavy burden on the families’ economic life, making them solely dependent on humanitarian aid.

“Swathes of land in the Basin region are simply no-go areas. Although these restrictions are to ensure civilians’ safety, they also stop people from working and farming – so they become dependent upon aid.”

Without reassessing these measures and their impact on the economy of the area, Oxfam considers it difficult to plan for stabilization.

Notes:

We have spokespersons in English and French.

Oxfam works in three of the four conflict-affected countries: Niger, Nigeria and Chad, where around 500,000 people have been supported in the areas of water, sanitation, food and protection.

Latest figures on the humanitarian crisis: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/LCB_CrisisUpdate_No19.pdf

Press contact:

María José Agejas

mjagejas@oxfamintermon.org

+34 637242672

Skype: mariajoseagejas