West Africa crisis

Fatma Abba, 17, from Niger, had to flee her village because of the threat of Boko Haram. She is now living in an IDP camp with her one year old son. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam
Fatma Abba, 17, from Niger, had to flee her village because of the threat of Boko Haram. She is now living in an IDP camp with her one year old son. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam

A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.

Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis

Almost seven years of violent conflict involving the group commonly known as Boko Haram and military operations to counter them has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa.

Originating in Nigeria, the  violence has spread across borders into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon forcing over 2.6 million people to flee their homes, abandon their farms and land, and leaving nearly 11 million people in need of emergency aid.

This is Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis, with alarming levels of sexual violence, human rights abuses and forced recruitment, even of young children.

Bakoura (name changed) a teacher and refugee tells the story of why he and other people fled their homes, forced out by conflict. Now living in a refugee camp where water is scarce, he still looks forward to a future for him and his family.

Forced to flee, now facing famine, malnutrition and disease

The conflict has devastated food production and led to the wholesale destruction of entire villages, roads, water sources, health facilities and schools. In some affected areas in the region this is the third year without a harvest and food prices are soaring in the markets.

Over seven million people are facing extreme hunger across the region. Hundreds of thousands are living in camps without adequate water access or waste management. As the rainy season starts, the risk of disease outbreaks is expected to increase, as well as the number of people in need of urgent food assistance.

In Nigeria, it should rise from 4.7 million to 5.2 million, with around 50,000 people in famine-like conditions. 450,000 children will suffer acute malnutrition this year. Without treatment, approximately one in five of those children (75.000) is likely to die.

Oxfam's response

In northeast Nigeria Oxfam has helped about 350,000 people affected by the crisis in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states since May 2014. Our intention is to help up to 500,000 people in 2017.

We provide people with emergency food support and cash and vouchers so they can buy food from local markets, clean water and better sanitation, including constructing showers and toilets. We are distributing food and cooking equipment, as well as providing seeds and tools to help traders and farmers.

In Niger, we are installing water systems to make sure people have clean water to drink and distributing essential items such as cooking pots, buckets and water purifying tablets. We are providing food assistance and support to income generating activities for IDPs and refugees.

We are also responding in Chad where our focus is cash distribution, providing tarpaulins for shelter, and supply of clean water to help prevent the spread of diseases.

You can help

An already vulnerable population is facing a life threatening situation that has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe across four countries. People have seen their homes ruined, their lives completely disrupted.

Having left everything behind, these desperate families now face new dangers – hunger, malnutrition and disease. They are in urgent need of food, water, medical care, shelter and safety.

And yet they remain largely unseen and unassisted by the world. Your donation will help us to respond where most needed.

Latest update: July 2017