12/07/17: The Lake Chad Crisis – A Silent Emergency

The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) held a joint panel discussion, in conjunction with the British Red Cross, on the Lake Chad Crisis on 12 July to raise greater awareness about the current crisis in the Lake Chad region, and to explore what more needs to be done to alleviate human suffering there and, ultimately, to resolve the crisis.

We would like to thank Rt Hon Ann Clwyd, PHRG Chair, for chairing this event.

The speakers were:

  • H. E. Matthew Rycroft CBE – UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (MR);
  • Alexander Matheou – Executive Director of the British Red Cross, International Directorate (AM);
  • Markus Geisser – Senior Humanitarian Affairs & Policy Adviser, ICRC (MG);
  • Dr Natalie Roberts – Head of Emergency Operations, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) France (NR);
  • Kate Osamor MP – Chair, Nigeria APPG (KO).


The main points raised were as follows:

  • This crisis in north-east Nigeria is in its eighth year and now has a regional dimension, with spill-over in Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Excessive counter-insurgency tactics have served to undermine food production. (MG) There are currently 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. (AM)
  • The British Red Cross appeal for the Lake Chad crisis has raised comparatively less than other emergencies of this scale, particularly in comparison to the Nepal earthquake appeal where millions were raised in a few days. With a long-running crisis situation such as this, it can be harder to mobilise the humanitarian response. (AM)  Similarly, the UN programme in connection with the Lake Chad crisis has only been 23% funded; there is a large gap between the money pledged and the money received.  DFID, however, has provided £100 million to help the most vulnerable. (MR)
  • National Red Cross societies, which are present in all the affected countries, are the first respondents.  The ICRC has dedicated £140 million to the Lake Chad crisis, as much as its funding for Syria. Cash payments are being provided to those in need to stimulate local economies and there is also a focus on long-term food production, healthcare, water and water supply systems, and family tracing programmes. (MG)
  • Many people are trapped between the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations. People who live in camps are effectively stuck as they become dependent on aid and are unable to move freely as either they are not allowed to leave or the military or civilian vigilantes screen them each time they leave and re-enter, with levels of extortion often involved.  The military fears that any aid supplies given to those in the camps could be passed on to members of Boko Haram. International NGOs therefore often have very limited access to these camps and restrictions on the aid they are able to provide, while they have no access to people living in areas of territory which are not under military control. (NR)
  • Lack of respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a key issue in this crisis. (AM) It is important that all parties to the conflict are made aware of their obligations in relation to IHL, though the nature of asymmetric warfare means that the nature of relations with warring parties is asymmetric. Those with influence on the warring parties should ensure there is compliance with IHL, e.g., by encouraging investigations into alleged IHL breaches. (MG)
  • There are reports of refugees being forcibly returned, which is contrary to IHL. The UK Government has a strong relationship with the Nigerian Government, as does France with Cameroon, which can help to influence on topics such as these. Violations of IHL must be investigated and those responsible held accountable. In the longer-term, respect for IHL is the way to defeat terrorism. (MR)
  • MR led a UN Security Council visit to the Lake Chad region and met with many people impacted by the crisis. It was evident that climate change, poor governance and Boko Haram activity are factors driving this crisis.(MR)
  • The UK drafted the UNSC Resolution 2349 on the Lake Chad crisis after the visit.  The Resolution is meant to highlight the need for an integrated approach, as well as sustained international engagement, to resolve the crisis. (MR)
  • There needs to be cooperation by states in the region to create a long-term plan to demobilise and reintegrate Boko Haram fighters. (MR)
  • The debate on this crisis is not moving fast enough and there needs to be an honest discussion on what is needed. For example, on the issue of climate change: some people who have been displaced cannot go back home. It is also key that money pledged goes towards supporting women and rebuilding communities where there are now no men and nothing left, and to provide mental health support. We need to look holistically at the people and their communities. (KO)


The PHRG will continue to monitor the situation in the Lake Chad region closely and to raise its concerns, particularly in connection with civilian protection, with the relevant interlocutors.