By Gabriel Ewepu
AN international aid and humanitarian organisation, OXFAM, has called on the Federal Government to urgently tackle the plight of 515, 000 children in Lake Chad Basin. The call was made by OXFAM through its Campaigns Manager for the Lake Chad Basin, Aurore Mathieu, following a summit on investing in the Lake Chad Basin held in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena recently.
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.
According to Mathieu the major issue on ground should be to add value on lives of families affected by insurgents’ attacks in various refugee camps by tackling existing humanitarian crisis and protection of the people. 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.
He said: “Vital talks toward “stabilization” of Lake Chad Basin must tackle the existing humanitarian crisis and recognize need to protect people. 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 November 2-4, will not properly succeed – and may even make the situation worse. 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.
“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. 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.”
He said Oxfam welcomes and supports any initiative that would help to stabilize this conflict area but it becomes a question of priorities, adding, “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. 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.”
According to him 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 and that the Lake Chad Basin is the only area in West Africa where there is no sign of improvement in the food security situation, but getting worse. “At the beginning of the year there were 7.1 million people in need of food. Today they are 7.2 million people.
“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 per cent since the beginning of the year. In Cameroon more than 1.6 million people need help and in Chad, 345,000 more.”
Stating the pathetic situation was Haoua Ousmane, who fled home 13months ago and lives in an informal camp at Yarom, Chad Republic. Before Ousmane lived on agriculture and small livestock, now he survives selling firewood and depends upon aid from humanitarian organizations. “We have nothing. We have nothing to eat, no money, no milk to give to our children”, he lamented.
In giving it assessment report OXFAM said, “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.”