Lake Chad – Is it too late for UN intervention?
Cii Radio | Sabera Sheik Essop | 19 May 2016 | 12 Sha’ban 1437
For the millions of people who depend on Lake Chad for their livelihood a bleak picture is what they will see if not for the UN stepping in to access the dire situation.
Concerned about the social and environmental crises ravaging Lake Chad Basin in the West African sub-region, the United Nations (UN) has started taking inventory of the humanitarian crisis facing people living around the area.
Lake Chad is Africa’s fourth largest lake (in terms of surface area) after Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyassa. It is, however, the largest fresh water reservoir in the Sahel region of Africa.
An important source of freshwater resource shared by Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic, the resources of the Lake and its basin provides the subsistence for the livelihood of more than 30 million people, most of whom are farmers, fishermen and livestock breeders.
But today the resources are fast diminishing as a result of several decades of drought and desertification caused by shortage of rainfall, high winds and temperature rise in the Sahel region. The Lake itself has shrunk to almost one twentieth of its size, a situation that has led to serious environmental degradation, such as loss of biodiversity, loss and modification of ecosystem, desertification and sedimentation of the water bodies.
Sadly, most of the people living around the Lake have become refugees in their own land, even as many of them along with their herds have either migrated or are migrating southward.
As a part of the strategy of reviewing activities in the region, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, is expected to begin a two-day visit to Nigeria today where he will meet with displaced people, their host communities, local officials and humanitarian actors in the Lake Chad Basin.
The visit is coming a day after O’ Brien ended a similar two-day visit to Niger, where he visited Diffa. In a statement released yesterday by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ahead of the Under-Secretary-General’s visit, UN said O’ Brien will round off his visit to Nigeria with press briefings in Maiduguri and Abuja.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator’s visit precedes the first World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 23 to 24 May, this year. The summit seeks to generate renewed focus on essential humanitarian commitments, highly relevant to the people of the region, including the need to ‘leave no one behind’ and to ‘prevent and end conflict.’
Highlighting the importance of O’ Brien’s visit to Nigeria and Niger, the UN said: “The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, including Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, has continuously deteriorated over the last two years,” adding that “insecurity, violence by Boko Haram and counter-insurgency measures have uprooted over 2.4 million people, making it the fastest growing displacement crisis in Africa.”
Picture credit:how Africa