How long will the world ignore suffering in Lake Chad Basin?

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Theirworld

“I want to be a teacher. I want to help others like me,” says Memdiglielembaye Croyance, 10, at the Primary School of Djako in Moundou, Chad Picture: UNICEF/McMahon


Suffering and crisis situations of all types and from all regions seem to be endless these days. We know, for example, that the world is in the midst of the largest forced displacement crisis ever recorded with over 65 million children, women and men forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, poverty and other disasters.

We know that, in 2015 alone, 75 million children had their education disrupted or ended completely because of emergencies.

We see new images every day of children undernourished, injured or exploited as child labourers or in countless other precarious situations from every corner of the globe.

With a constant barrage of such information, it seems only natural that some things will grab our attention and others will slip through the cracks.

But what if the things that we let slip through the cracks mean the difference between life or death for someone?

This is exactly what is happening with the deepening humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in the Lake Chad Basin.

In a brief released today, the children’s charity Theirworld draws attention to the sadly forgotten crisis in the Lake Chad region.

Almost half of those living in the Lake Chad Basin (a region spanning Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad) – or nine million out of a population of 21 million – are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

The graphic below from UNICEF and OCHA shows the flight of 2.6 million people from Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin

And at least one million children are at risk of losing out on their education with over 1000 schools destroyed or occupied.

Respected organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Food Programme and UNICEF have all sounded warning bells that the emergency – characterised by deepening poverty, attacks on education, the use of child suicide bombers, high-profile abductions of schoolgirls, widespread displacement and alarming rates of severe malnutrition – will continue to get worse if not met with immediate resources.

An emergency appeal for US$221 million is currently open just to meet the most urgent needs through September 2016.

Unfortunately, repeated calls for attention and urgent resources to stop the crisis from escalating into a full-blown famine have been met with deafening silence.

Headlines have been shocking and meant to hold our attention:
“More than 1,200 die of starvation and illness…”
“UN accused of failure as Nigeria at risk of famine”
“Quarter of a million children are severely malnourished…”

And yet somehow the grave depth, massive scale and urgent risk of the crisis continue largely overlooked.

It’s not an acceptable response, particularly from the international humanitarian system whose very purpose is to respond adequately to the most dire emergencies wherever they are, regardless of the volume of public outcry.

It is not acceptable for the international system to care about and respond to some crises and neglect others – and this is exactly what is happening.

When world leaders gather in New York later this month for the UN Refugee Summit and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis, they must be truly global in nature and not allow crises such as that in the Lake Chad Basin to continue to be neglected in humanitarian response.


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