Climate change is feeding poverty, instability, hunger and violence in the Lake Chad basin
Poverty, hunger, suffering. These terms seem inadequate to describe what I witnessed in the Lake Chad Basin, the West African region that is host to the one of the world’s worst – and certainly its most neglected – humanitarian crisis since 1945.
The crisis in the West African region, which includes parts of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, has left approximately 10.7 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
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The human face of this crisis is devastating. When I visited the region as part of a mission with the World Food Programme in May this year, I saw desperate hunger, displacement, and shocking levels of violence and insecurity facing civilians, especially women and girls. Civilians live with the daily threat of r**e, kidnappings, killings and terrorist attacks.
Over 2.4 million people have been displaced by the crisis, but there are simply aren’t the resources to meet the most basic needs of these people in the refugee or displaced peoples camps or urban centres where they end up.
With little or nothing left to trade for vital resources like food, sexual exploitation (s*x-for-food as it is known) has become the norm, even within the camps.
A report released this week by the UN Secretary-General affirms all I witnessed on the ground in the Lake Chad Basin. It underscores the overwhelming scale of the crisis, and the need for urgent and immediate humanitarian responses.
But it doesn’t quite go as far as thinking about a long-term solution. In my view, the short-term and long-term responses simply cannot be separated, without being detrimental to both.
In order to tackle this crisis with any kind of sustainability – even in the short-run – there needs to be a thorough understanding of what caused it to spiral in the first place.
While the current crisis was triggered by violence linked to armed groups such as Boko Haram, discussions I had with people in the region, and expert consultations convened by my organisation on the issue, agree on some root causes.