The people of the Lake Chad Basin are grappling with one of Africa’s biggest humanitarian crises. Caused by the ravages of violent conflict, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change, the crisis is affecting more than 17 million people across north eastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, western Chad and south eastern Niger.
More than 10.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Most of the 2.4 million displaced by the crisis — more than half of them children — are sheltering in communities who are among the poorest in the world.
Outside the town of Diffa, in the south eastern corner of Niger, the highway is dotted with makeshift settlements, shelters made of tree limbs, millet stalks and the occasional tarpaulin. These are the homes of some of the 340,000 people displaced by the crisis, both from within Niger and from neighbouring Nigeria, who have arrived in Diffa in search of food and, most of all, safety. Theirs are stories of displacement, dislocation and disintegration.
CARE is assisting more than 300,000 people currently seeking refuge in Diffa, working with local partners to provide hygiene and shelter kits, build latrines and boreholes, and distribute cash, food, seeds and agricultural equipment and small scale livestock such as goats and sheep.
But aid agencies across the region are struggling to meet the needs of so many displaced. This is one of Africa’s most under reported crises.
“The insurgents came to our village on a Monday, at around 8am. We left only with our lives. They chased us to the river and we hid for three days in the long grass until we knew they had gone. My second born was just eight days old. To get him across the river we tied old petrol cans together to make a raft. Many from our village couldn’t swim and they died. We got here to Diffa and we have been here ever since. Life is not easy here but we are safe. We have been welcomed and given some space but we are sixteen people in my family and there is not enough to go around.”
– Amina*, with her oldest son
“The insurgents killed our neighbours, they killed our livestock, they stole all our belongings. My family and I came here two years ago but I cannot find work and we depend on others in our community for food, for clothes, for money to buy some rice. We will go back when it is safe. I was a trader there. I want to go back and be able to provide for my family.”
“We left our village in a hurry, and we kept moving for four years – nowhere was safe. We have been here for one year and we have security but many in my family have died and I am now caring for ten children. We do not have enough to eat. I collect firewood for sale but it’s not enough. The children get food at school but we depend on the kindness of the community even for the clothes we wear.”
“There was no time to pack. The insurgents attacked suddenly and killed many people in our village. We left with the clothes of on backs. That was three years ago.”
“If you go to my village, a community of around 5,000 people, you will find no-one. Everyone has left. But the living conditions where we are now are very difficult. A man who was once in charge of ten people is now dependent on the charity of others. I’m one of the lucky ones, I have a job and many people rely on me for assistance. If we were told one day we could go back to our village, none of us would wait another night.“
“A lot of assistance has come but it’s not enough. The needs are huge. People have nothing – no farm, no livestock, no fishing. They have nothing to do and no way of helping themselves.”
“We were farmers in our village, we grew maize and vegetables. Here my husband collects firewood to sell but the money isn’t enough. My children are fed at school but at home we eat porridge for breakfast and, if we’re lucky, one meal later in the day.”
– Aichatou, and her daughter
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