For over a decade now, the northeastern region of Nigeria has been experiencing constant terrorist attacks and killings of innocent refugees and displaced persons. Nigeria shares borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, all of which are situated around the Lake Chad Basin. Over the years, the Lake Chad Basin has been a major source of fishing, farming, and irrigation in the region before the coming of the fight against Boko Haram. To worsen the situation at hand, the shrinking of Lake Chad has left life unbearable for internally displaced persons and inhabitants who rely on fishing and agriculture. The humanitarian crisis in northeastern Nigeria has given way to another form of crisis, which is known today as the “water security crisis.” The humanitarian crisis, in its totality, has really hampered the process of achieving a sustainable solution for refugees who are constantly at the mercy of Boko Haram’s insurgency. This has mostly been caused by the vastly encroaching desertification in the northern regions of Nigeria, as a result of a shrunken economy in the Lake Chad region and grazing areas for cattle.
It will also be necessary to remind ourselves that this economic meltdown in the north has rendered many unemployed persons vulnerable to extremist indoctrination by Boko Haram. Therefore, the local and international community has to propose resilient solution to prevent the Lake Chad Basin from drying up. Oxfam, a global humanitarian organization, stipulated that water scarcity is posing to be a severe threat to the survival of about 3,800 internally displaced persons who arrived in Nigeria from Cameroon in the past few days. In a statement in Abuja on Friday, June 2, 2017, Oxfam said that many refugee returnees seem to have been misinformed as they were promised improved access to humanitarian assistance and safe return to their villages, but this is not the realty upon arrival to the camp.
Oxfam reported that “over the past three months, nearly 10000 more people have arrived in Pulka from surrounding areas and from Cameroon. Humanitarian actors have warned consistently that the conditions in Pulka are neither dignified nor safe and that alternatives must be found … Currently, people cannot count on much more than five litres of water per person per day, which is a far cry from the humanitarian minimum standard of 15litres. Every new busload of people hoping to return home, but delivered to the congested camp sites of Pulka, forces the little available water to be shared among more thirsty mouths, increasing the risks of disease and death.” This condition alone has greatly deteriorated the health and security of refugee returnees.
Recently, Oxfam’s Emergency Coordinator for the Lake Chad region, Danielle Lustig, explained that “people have already suffered immensely and we should not add more pain to their lives. They should only be relocated to places where there are sufficient basic services and provided with complete information about the conditions they will face.”
The living conditions of refugees in northeastern Nigeria have grown from bad to worse following the advent of the war against terrorism and Islamic extremism. This situation has greatly crippled the avenue of a resilient solution towards peace and protection of people and properties in this region. However, the policies proposed by local and international organizations to achieve peace and stability in the region will also go a long way to protect the Lake Chad Basin from extinction.
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