West Africa’s Lake Chad region is probably the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world, where poverty and desertification have severely increased by violence caused by Boko Haram, the U.N. aid chief said on Tuesday at the World Humanitarian Summit.
The gap between the suffering and the humanitarian response may be bigger than in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, a senior Red Cross official said.
More than 2.4 million people were obliged to flee their homes in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad because of violence, according to the United Nations. There is so much suffering where many families have been displaced multiple times and almost 90% percent are sheltering in host communities.
Hosts are not in better conditions, as both the displaced and their hosts are in need of emergency aid where farming has been curtailed by the violence, deepening food shortages and hunger, U.N. officials said.
“Lake Chad Basin … at this stage is the most under reported, the most underfunded and the least addressed of the big crises we face,” U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien said.
The suffering got worse because of climate changes and lack of resources and this has been compounded by the brutality wreaked by Boko Haram, he added.
“We have humanitarian needs now in that part of the world on a scale which is unprecedented,” said O’Brien, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
This year, the United Nations has appealed for $535 million for the region. Last year’s appeal was just over 40 percent funded. Some 3 million people face severe food insecurity in the region, the majority in northeast Nigeria. In the far north of Cameroon, the number urgently needing food aid has quadrupled in the last year, according to U.N. figures.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said it was rapidly scaling up its response to avoid a “famine-like situation”.
“Across Lake Chad, where farming is possible but not practical because so much insecurity exists, the crisis disrupts trade, and the pastoral and agricultural lean season has come two months early,” said WFP head Ertharin Cousin.