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Crisis in the Lake Chad Basin: Communities pull together, but millions are at risk

Millions of people across four countries in the Lake Chad Basin region of west Africa face severe hunger.

Governments have been asked to urgently increase funding for relief efforts in parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. 6.4 million people are facing food shortages, and many are already in dire need.

But with the world’s attention turned to other humanitarian catastrophes such as that currently taking place in Syria, the Lake Chad Basin crisis risks becoming the latest in a series of forgotten disasters.

Only US$ 197 million (about £160 million) has been pledged to fight the crisis in 2016. Experts say US$739 million (about £600 million) is needed this year.

Government forces fight Boko Haram

The crisis has its roots in the seven year conflict in north-eastern Nigeria between government forces and the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. This has driven around 1.9 million civilians from their homes in Nigeria. A further 700,000 have been forced to flee in the three other affected countries.

People have been left not just without homes, but also without access to land, work, health services, clean drinking water and food. In many areas, farmers have been unable to return to their land and cultivate their crops. Some fishing communities have been unable to use Lake Chad due to fears over insecurity. The closure of roads and borders has meant that markets usually bustling with people are now deserted.

Communities welcome new arrivals

The situation would be far worse were it not for the hospitality and generosity of ordinary people. Up to 90 per cent of those forced to flee have found refuge with host families. Communities have willingly taken in new arrivals and shared what they have with them, giving people essential food and shelter.

But the volume of new arrivals is placing a huge strain on communities which already had very little. People in the affected region are among the poorest in the world. And host communities, as well as those forced to flee, are in desperate need of support.

We're setting up schools and helping people survive

Concern is helping people affected by the crisis in the Diffa region, Niger, where over 109,000 people have had to flee their homes within the region. Our response includes setting up schools in the areas where incomers have settled, so children can get an education; and cash for work activities, which give families money to buy food and other basic household necessities.

We are also helping host communities and new arrivals find new ways of earning a living, to help them survive the current crisis and become more resilient to threats brought by an uncertain future.

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