Ana Aguilera, researcher at the International Observatory for Terrorism Studies (OIET) in Spain and Coordinator of the Young Researchers Programme
Hunger and terrorism are wreaking havoc in the Lake Chad Basin region, causing a severe humanitarian crisis. Millions of people are in dire need of assistance, with their livelihoods destroyed and access to basic necessities cut off by the violence and instability caused by terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The United Nations (UN) and its partners have been working tirelessly to address the impact of terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin region, providing humanitarian assistance, supporting development initiatives, and working with governments to promote stability and security. However, despite these efforts, the humanitarian crisis in the region persists.
The Impact of Terrorism on Food Security
Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISWAP have disrupted food production and trade, causing food prices to soar and leaving millions of people without access to basic necessities. These armed groups have also attacked farmers, destroyed crops, and burned down markets, leading to significant crop losses and a decline in agricultural productivity.
In the state of Borno, Boko Haram is believed to have stalled the cultivation of over 400 hectares of wheat in the area, as well as in other states in the northeastern part of Nigeria. In Niger, at least 11 local farmers were shot dead by elements of ISWAP in September 2022, amidst accusations of information leaking about the terrorists’ hideouts. Additionally, the conflict has led to the displacement of millions of people, fueling food insecurity and prompting the need to rely on illicit economies for survival, which further exacerbates the violence cycle.
Terrorism also disrupts local economies, leading to the loss of livelihoods for farmers, traders, and other food producers. This leads to a reduction in the diversity and resilience of local food systems, making them more vulnerable to shocks such as droughts and floods.
The situation in the Lake Chad Basin region is especially critical, with the United Nations warning of a risk of famine for millions of people in the region. This has put humanitarian agencies on the front line in providing emergency food assistance, nutritional support, and livelihood opportunities to those in need.
Humanitarian agencies have been working tirelessly to support affected communities, but their efforts have been hampered by funding shortfalls, security challenges, and limited access to conflict-affected areas. Despite these challenges, they continue to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in the region.
The situation is particularly dire in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been most active. In Borno state, the epicenter of the crisis, over 4 million people are in need of food assistance, and over 320,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
The international response to the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region has been a critical component of the humanitarian effort. The UN has been working with its partners to coordinate the delivery of life-saving assistance to millions of people affected by the crisis.
One of the key initiatives undertaken by the UN has been the establishment of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), which brings together the affected countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria to promote regional cooperation and coordinate a joint response to the crisis.
The LCBC has been working to improve cross-border coordination, promote peace and security, and support livelihoods and economic development in the affected communities. Other initiatives, such as the 2017 Lake Chad Basin Strategic Action Programme, are aimed at curbing the growing influence of environmental and climate change and inappropriate practices.
The UN has also been working to address the root causes of the crisis through long-term investments in agriculture and rural development, conflict resolution, and strengthening social protection systems. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been supporting farmers to improve agricultural productivity, while the World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing food assistance to millions of people in the region. On its part, the European Union (EU) has pledged more than €100 million in humanitarian funding for Africa’s Lake Chad region, allocating a great amount of EU aid to the region.
Despite advocacy efforts by humanitarian agencies, funding appeals often fall short of their targets, and access to affected communities is restricted by the ongoing violence and instability caused by terrorism. The COVID-19 pandemic and the irruption of the war in Ukraine has further exacerbated these challenges, with restrictions on movement and disruptions to supply chains and markets.
As part of its response, the UN has also been working to address the protection needs of affected populations — particularly women and children who are often the most vulnerable in crisis situations. By engaging with local partners, the UN has been able to provide protection services, including psychosocial support, and promote women’s and children’s rights in the affected communities.
Despite the efforts of the UN and its partners, the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region persists. Ongoing violence and instability caused by terrorism makes it difficult for humanitarian actors to access those needing assistance. Additionally, cross-cutting threats such as climate change, have made it even more challenging to provide assistance, with restrictions on movement and disruptions to supply chains and markets.
In this situation of instability, institutional areas are intertwined with the humanitarian context. Many regional governments and institutions have limited capacity to address the food crisis effectively. This includes limited technical expertise, weak regulatory frameworks, and inadequate monitoring and evaluation systems, which can make it difficult to implement effective policies and programs.
Weak governance in the Lake Chad Basin also leads to corruption, lack of accountability, and limited transparency, which tend to undermine efforts to address food insecurity. The 2016 report of the World Food Programme confirmed that corruption and political neglect to provide basic social services played a key role in social unrest and food insecurity.
The humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region is a stark reminder of the impact of terrorism on food security and the need for a coordinated response from the international community. The UN and its partners have been working to address the impact of terrorism on food security, providing humanitarian assistance, supporting development initiatives, and working with governments to promote stability and security.
However, the ongoing violence and instability caused by terrorism, as well as the challenges posed by cross-cutting threats, continue to pose significant challenges to these efforts.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.