24th Mar 2018


The Lake Chad Basin crisis

  • Ecological collapse threatens the livelihoods of millions in Africa (Photo: ec - Audiovisual Service)

I have lived in and worked in, loved, written and cared about Sub-Saharan Africa virtually my entire adult life.

So, it is with great sadness that I say there are few phrases that today bring me closer to tears—or nearly have me choking, just trying to say them—than the three words: Lake Chad Basin.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

To have worked so long and so hard to address the needs of the millions of men, women and children who live there—first as a diplomat and now with the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations migration agency—and help them forge a better future, yet witness the tragedy unfolding there is simply heart-breaking.

Yet we must continue to work, today, more than ever.

The Lake Chad Region is one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world.

Violence and conflict, insecurity, chronic unemployment and lack of opportunity are perpetuating the impoverishment and growing vulnerability of displaced and host and home communities alike.

Starting Thursday February 23 at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region we will try to stem a humanitarian emergency that holds hostage the lives of millions and threatens generations to come.

The world largely overlooked the crisis coursing through north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region in 2016.

Violent conflict and human suffering have marked Nigeria and parts of Niger, Chad and Cameroon for the better part of a decade.

Boko Haram raids and suicide bombings targeting civilian populations have destroyed vital infrastructure, threatening entire economies and preventing people from earning their livelihoods.

Widespread trauma, suffering and displacement count their victims in the millions.

The world must act

With no end in sight to this crisis, humanitarian actors must call for concerted engagement of political, developmental and security actors to help stabilise the region and create conditions for people to survive and prosper.

Last summer, IOM conducted an opportunity mapping study of the region to identify suitable durable solutions.

Based on the results of this exercise, IOM is implementing a program which allows selected Internally Displaced People, or IDPs, to choose new places to settle and conduct agricultural work in cooperation with the Chadian government.

It is examples of programs like this that can help affected populations rebuild their lives, giving them a sense of hope and dignity.

But that is only a beginning, in Nigeria alone, 26 million people live in some affected areas.

Humanitarian aid agencies like IOM today identify nearly 11 million people in dire need in the most affected areas of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Over seven million people struggle with food security—with children representing a majority of those in need. IOM estimates there are 2.3 million displaced, a number that has tripled in just two years.

By meeting this week in Oslo, the co-hosts—Germany, Nigeria, Norway and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs— and partners working in and supporting the region will draw further attention to the needs outlined by the humanitarian response plans of aid groups, as well as donor appeals for the respective countries.

The conference will focus on food security, protection and access, and education in emergencies.

Food security is paramount

Hunger and malnutrition rates in the region are alarming due to years of conflict, which has prevented people from raising staples like sorghum and maize.

Food assistance and support for subsistence farming are crucial for food security.

Then there is the need for protection, especially for vulnerable women and children. Attacks on education infrastructure by groups like Boko Haram - meaning "western education is forbidden" - have been at the heart of the conflict.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of schools have been destroyed, leaving an estimated three million schoolchildren adrift.

That has contributed to even more violence and the widening scourge of displaced women, many still children, being forced into arranged, “early” marriages, a form of gender-based sexual violence used by too many as a solution to starvation, instead of what it is: a true crime against humanity.

Today at age 82 I can look back past more than a half a century, to 1963, when I first flew over Lake Chad—the largest lake on the continent—to my first posting in Africa, and the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.

Ten years later I was assigned to a posting much closer to Chad at the Embassy in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, and after Nigeria.

In that bygone era, our concerns for Lake Chad had more to do with ways to make such a lush oasis an ever greater resource for its neighbours.

Diplomats and their governments floated exciting schemes to divert water from the Ubangi River into the lake.

The dazzling prospects of richer fishing, greater harvests and more prosperity across several countries are remembered now as if they were mirages in the desert, rumours of what might have been.

Instead of bringing wealth and stability to millions, Lake Chad has shrunk dramatically over six decades—feeding only the poverty that today feeds so much violence.

We meet in Oslo this week to save this once beautiful place. Let’s not miss our chance.

William Lacy Swing is director general of the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations migration agency

EU mission in Chad ends amid tensions

The EU mission to Chad aimed at protecting refugees from Darfur has started preparations for the handover of its facilities to the incoming UN mission amid increased tensions as a result of the international arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir.

'Denial' - is meat the new climate change?

The European Parliament's agriculture committee meets on Tuesday, with speculation that the EPP will vote against a report on the EU plant protein plan if it mentions switching away from animals to plant-based diets.

'Denial' - is meat the new climate change?

The European Parliament's agriculture committee meets on Tuesday, with speculation that the EPP will vote against a report on the EU plant protein plan if it mentions switching away from animals to plant-based diets.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Nordic states discuss targeted Russia sanctions
  2. Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case
  3. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  4. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  5. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  6. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  7. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  8. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections