Photo: UNDP Chad

Millions of people in Africa’s Lake Chad region (north-east Nigeria and parts of Niger, Chad and Cameroon) are facing a profound and protracted crisis driven by extreme poverty, climate change and violent conflict.

The crisis has led to the internal displacement of 2.4 million people, the destruction of livelihoods, human rights abuses, and the disruption of health, education and other basic services. More than 10 million vulnerable people need life-saving assistance and protection today. Women and children are particularly hard hit.

This is a massive humanitarian crisis. But it is also a daunting development crisis. It is not only critical that the world address the urgent needs of millions right away, we must act urgently to strengthen resilience in the region, and help people and communities recover to prevent a further deterioration of the crisis.

This is because, while acute emergency needs continue to be dire, delivering only humanitarian assistance year after year will not be enough to bring communities back to a path of sustainable development.

Development programmes need to be scaled up right now, even as humanitarian response continues. This means enhancing local governance, providing basic services, improving economic opportunity and strengthening social cohesion, while also restoring people’s and institutions’ sense of agency and dignity, as well as their ability to adapt to changing circumstances — all with a focus on women and young people.

This need to link humanitarian work with development goals is becoming more widely recognised as critical to the future of regions like the Lake Chad Basin. In fact, it was the impetus behind a joint OCHA-UNDP mission to Somalia in January, and UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and OCHA head and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock have underlined the need to address the root causes of crisis.

In February 2017, a conference on the Lake Chad region co-hosted by Germany, Nigeria, Norway, and the United Nations took place in Oslo. Donors pledged US$672 million to emergency assistance and support in 2017 and beyond. The humanitarian response was scaled up significantly: more than six million people were reached with assistance in 2017, and a famine was averted in north-east Nigeria.

The humanitarian requirements for the region in 2018 total US$1.56 billion, and efficient development assistance focusing on building resilience is also needed now.

The co-hosts from Oslo, including the United Nations Development Programme, are now convening a second conference to maintain momentum and increase and expand international support, this time in Berlin on September 3 and 4. This Conference will aim to raise financial and other support not only for the humanitarian response, but also to promote crisis prevention and stabilization, as well resilience for sustainable development.

Stabilization seeks to enable first steps towards reconciliation and identify approaches to de-radicalization and the prevention of violent extremism. Resilience for sustainable development seeks to reduce risk, needs and vulnerability and reduce the dependency on humanitarian support.

There is a heightened awareness that a more joined-up approach to humanitarian and development programing is needed: “moving from delivering aid, to ending need.” This will require a boost in development action focused on restoring and enhancing resilience for the most vulnerable and addressing the structural deficits and root causes of the crisis.

The conference is expected to reinforce an approach that combines the response to people’s immediate humanitarian needs with addressing the root causes of the crisis in a way that leads to sustainable, resilient development.

Financial pledges will be made by donors both to the current humanitarian response but also to the longer-term needs of the people affected by this crisis.

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