Ongoing Insecurity in Lake Chad Region Stretches Aid AgenciesJanuary 14, 2016 in Nigeria
Aid agencies have reported that a series of suicide bombings in Lake Chad in recent months, which have all been blamed on Boko Haram insurgents, has hindered healthcare and aid delivery, effectively leaving tens of thousands of displaced people living in fear of further violence.
In early December, four female suicide bombers attacked the island of Koulfoua, killing at least fifteen people and injuring a further 130 in what is just the latest in a wave of bombings that prompted the Chadian government last month to declare a state of emergency in the Lake Chad region.
While Chad has been instrumental in forcing Boko Haram to cede territory earlier this year, ongoing operations in northeastern Nigeria have effectively forced Boko Haram militants to seek shelter elsewhere. Reports have indicated that while some have used the porous borders to slip into Cameroon, Chad and Niger in a bid to remain safe, experts believe that most militants are hiding on islands located on Lake Chad. The swampy maze of islands in the border areas between Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria has now become a main target for the militant Islamist group.
According to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), more than 50,000 people have been forced to leave their homes due to the violence and threat of further attacks, which has hampered the provision of supplies and healthcare to those in need. According to Federica Alberti, MSF head of mission in Chad, “living conditions were already poor and there was a lack of healthcare before the attack, which have left people living in fear,” further adding that “it is challenging to respond in the region because we know more attacks will happen, but do not know when and where, and we can’t go everywhere due to security constraints.” The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also disclosed that new restrictions aimed at stopping attacks, such as bans on motorised canoes, enforced after the state of emergency was extended until March, have also hindered access for aid agencies.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also disclosed that the violence in the region has disrupted livelihoods including fishing and farming, and has hit cross-border trade and markets, adding that this has left one in ten of those uprooted without enough to eat. According to Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP country director for Chad, “we are dealing with a harsh climate and environment in a region which has limited infrastructure and development…it is a humanitarian crisis on top of a development crisis.”
While Lake Chad countries, backed by Benin, have vowed to defeat Bok Haram by using members of an 8,700-strong regional task force, security sources have disclosed that there are growing sings that national armies are instead acting alone.