Boko Haram violence in Lake Chad region leaves children displaced and trapped


Boko Haram violence in Lake Chad region leaves children displaced and trapped

5 August 2016 - Daresalam refugee camp, Chad’s Lac Region.
Portrait of Khadija Kaku, through a hole in the family shelter.

The forced journey of Khadija, a refugee in Chad
Written by Badre Bahaji

Listening to the story of Khadija, 15, and her many travels, I could imagine the dangerous road that these migrant children have taken. In 5 years, "Khadi" as her friends call her, has lived in five different places because of conflict or drought.

Khadija Kaku lives in the Daresalam refugee camp in Chad’s Lac Region. "My father is a farmer, he left us to go to work a plot of land leased near the shores of the Lake. He doesn’t want us to live on humanitarian aid alone," she says, proudly.

Kaku Khadija was born in Ariboye, a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria with no school and no clean drinking water. Her parents rented a small piece of land to work, but it wasn’t enough. "In 2010, there was another drought. We couldn’t harvest enough to live on for the rest of the year. We had to leave our home to travel to the village of Meltri on the shores of Lake Chad. Our uncle welcomed us there," she continues.

The life of a teenager

Khadija’s life in Meltri looks like the life of the kind of teenager I know. "My uncle had a television, a computer and a small shop where he charged people’s phones. This is where I developed a passion for new technologies. We watched Bollywood shows and music videos from all over Africa. Then we’d go out with friends and try to imitate the movies or the lyrics for fun,” she says with an embarrassed smile.

It was also in Meltri where Khadija discovered school, quickly advancing to grade 5. Reality would soon catch up to her however. "One morning when we entered the classroom, we found a letter slipped under the door of the school at night, written in Hausa by Boko Haram. The letter ordered parents to send their children home, and teachers to leave the area." The tone of her voice changed immediately as she recounted the inci

© UNICEF/UN028849/Tremeau

DAKAR/HONG KONG, 25 August 2016 – Years of violence by Boko Haram in Africa’s Lake Chad basin have led to a worsening humanitarian crisis that has displaced 1.4 million children and left at least one million still trapped in hard-to-reach areas, UNICEF said in a report released today.

“The Lake Chad crisis is a children’s crisis that should rank high on the global migration and displacement agenda,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Humanitarian needs are outpacing the response, especially now that new areas previously unreachable in north-east Nigeria become accessible.”

Released ahead of the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants (September 19), Children on the Move, Children left Behind looks at the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency on children in Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger and its devastating toll on children.

The report notes that:

  • In addition to the 2.6 million people currently displaced, an additional 2.2 million people – over half of them children – are feared to be trapped in areas under the control of Boko Haram and need humanitarian assistance.
  • An estimated 38 children have been used to carry out suicide attacks in Lake Chad basin so far this year, bringing to 86 the total number of children used as suicide bombers since 2014.
  • An estimated 475,000 children across Lake Chad will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, up from 175,000 at the beginning of the year.
  • In north-east Nigeria alone, an estimated 20,000 children have been separated from their families.

The report also notes that most of the displaced population – more than 8 in 10 people – are staying with families and neighbours, putting additional strain on some of the world’s poorest communities.

“Local communities are sharing the little they have to help those in need in an act of humanity that is replicated in thousands of homes across the conflict-affect areas,” said Fontaine.

UNICEF is working with partners to meet the basic needs of children and their families in the conflict-affected areas. So far this year, nearly 170,000 children received psychosocial support, almost 100,000 were treated for severe acute malnutrition and over 100,000 took part in learning programmes.

UNICEF has received only 13 per cent of the approx. HK$2.4 billion (US$ 308 million) it needs to provide assistance to the families affected by Boko Haram violence across Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The children’s agency is appealing to the donor community to step up its support for the affected communities. Additional resources will help UNICEF and its partners scale up the response – particularly as access to areas previously under Boko Haram control is revealing growing humanitarian needs.