What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Jul 2016

Political and Humanitarian Briefing on the Lake Chad basin

Tomorrow (27 July), Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and OCHA Head Stephen O’Brien are expected to brief the Security Council on the humanitarian, protection and security situation in the Lake Chad basin. The UK requested the session on Thursday (21 July), noting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis and the rising impact of violent extremism.

Feltman has just returned from a 20 to 26 July visit to Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. While in Chad, he met with President Idriss D├ęby, and visited the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which has been established to combat Boko Haram by Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Feltman is expected to share what he heard about the progress and challenges facing the MNJTF during a briefing at the headquarters in N’Djamena. Although there has been some progress in the fight against Boko Haram as a result of increased military cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbours, the group has resorted to more attacks on soft targets, such as internally displaced persons camps, and use of suicide bombers, who are frequently women or girls. Boko Haram has also demonstrated the capacity to launch large-scale attacks. On 3 June, it attacked the town of Bosso, Niger, killing 28 soldiers and displacing 70,000 people. Feltman, who visited both the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel and the UN Office for Central Africa, may elaborate of the activities of these regional offices in support of the Lake Chad basin countries.

The humanitarian crisis created by the conflict will be the focus of the briefing by O’Brien, who undertook a tour of the region in May. According to OCHA’s 11 July Crisis Update on the Lake Chad basin, there are 9.2 million people in need across the region and 2.6 million people have been displaced. Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, Nigeria, hosts 1.4 million displaced persons, which has more than doubled the city’s population. Improved humanitarian access in Borno State has revealed emergency levels of malnutrition and famine-like conditions in 15 displaced persons camps with an estimated 275,000 people. UNICEF warned in a 19 July press release that in Borno State 134 children on average will die per day from causes linked to acute malnutrition if the humanitarian response is not scaled up quickly, and that the true scope of the crisis has not yet been revealed. Delivering aid across Borno continues to be challenged by security conditions, including the presence of improvised explosive devices and risk of attack.

O’Brien is likely to highlight the $559 million that OCHA needs to address the crisis in 2016, of which just 22 percent has been received. Earlier this month a high-level delegation comprised of the EU, the US, and OCHA’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel toured the region to draw attention to the situation and emphasise the need for greater donor attention.

Council members will be interested in further progress in operationalising the MNJTF, and overall regional efforts to combat Boko Haram. In this regard, some members may highlight their bilateral military support. It seems that the UK is particularly interested in drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis, which has received much less Council attention than other humanitarian crises, and together with several other members may call for countries to provide more assistance to meet urgent needs.

Among other issues, members may highlight the importance of counter-insurgency and terrorism operations complying with international humanitarian and human rights law.
They may stress that defeating Boko Haram requires addressing underlying problems by improving governance and promoting economic development to address the long standing feelings of marginalisation of Nigeria’s northeast and other communities in the Lake Chad basin. Some members may draw attention to the increasing terrorism threat in West Africa and the Sahel, and highlight the importance of regional initiatives in combating this threat.

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