LAGOS: THE Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders has painted a grim picture on the situation in the Lake Chad region, an epicentre of violence following the attacks by the West African Province of the Islamic State (POAEI). The militant group is also infamously know as the as Boko Haram. Senior officials decried the operations of the government and armed reprisals also contribute to mass displacement across the region where to date, over 2, 5 million people have been driven from their homes because of violence in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
“In the Lake Chad region, we are facing a regional crisis which has major humanitarian consequences,” said Dr Jean Clement Cabrol, Director of MSF’s operations. “People continue to flee violence, seeking refuge across the border or in their own country. Some are fleeing attacks by the group POAEI but others are fleeing because of reprisals and offensives by regional military forces. Civilians are caught in a vicious circle of violence.” He highlighted the precarious living conditions and lack of access to healthcare.
“Health facilities are insufficient in number and scattered. They are sometimes closed due to lack of essential drugs and equipment or because the medical staff was forced to flee. Finally, civilian populations are deprived of vital health care.” Cabrol bemoaned that people who were forced to flee, living in conditions of great vulnerability, shelter or livelihoods. “Many of them are unable to harvest and the cost of living has increased significantly. The situation worsens in a fragile and neglected region where basic services are badly needed,” said Cabrol. MSF provides medical and humanitarian assistance to refugees, displaced persons and surrounding host populations in Lake Chad.
The teams in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger are working with respective ministries of health to provide vital services such as primary health care, pediatric and nutritional support, psychological support, care and surgical care of wounded and victims of violence. However, many people are totally inaccessible and we do not know the scale of needs in certain areas. “Our challenge is to reach people who are displaced within their own country because the majority lives dispersed in host communities in areas where access is precarious. Despite these constraints, our goal is to ensure that health care remains accessible,” said Cabrol.
He pointed out the Boko Haram attacks hit the markets, places of worship and schools. “Fear is widespread and movement is massive.” In parallel, he said, the cons-offensive and violence to force people from their homes to shelter in safe places.
“They do not feel safe and do not want to go home. It is as if they were waiting for something to happen. It is difficult to know what the future holds. The only certainty is that populations are uprooted and living in fear.” The Boko Haram insurgency has killed more than 17 000 people over the years in the region, mostly in Nigeria. The group was recently said to be the deadliest terror group in the world.
SOURCE: CAJ NEWS AGENCY