Unrest persists in Nigeria as Boko Haram, an Islamic group dedicated to eliminating the Christian minority and Muslims who do not follow their doctrine, continues to push civilians out of their homes. Around 61,000 refugees are camping in Cameroon’s Northern region, around 15 miles east of the Nigerian border. The camp is only 40 miles away from the Nigerian village where Boko Haram abducted 270 girls from their school in 2014. In February, the United Nations declared a famine in South Sudan. Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia are on the brink of a similar humanitarian disaster. Because Boko Haram has displaced nearly 2.5 million people across the four countries around Lake Chad, the famine has spread. “Hunger and armed conflict are ‘very much linked.’”
04/11/2017 Nigeria (Newsweek) – Cradling her baby daughter outside her home in the Minawao refugee camp, Maryam repeats the words Boko Haram fighters shouted at her husband when they arrived in the northeast Nigerian village of Djogode, in 2014. As Christians—her husband is a pastor—Maryam and her family were prime targets for the Islamist militant organization, which has terrorized northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries since 2009. Her family fled the same day, after fighters set fire to a church and murdered a fellow pastor in Djogode, she says.
Maryam is one of 61,000 Nigerian refugees in the Minawao camp outside the city of Mokolo, in Cameroon’s Extreme North region, around 15 miles east of the Nigerian border. Mokolo is only 40 miles from the Nigerian village of Chibok, where more than 270 girls were abducted from their school by Boko Haram fighters in 2014. That event drew short-lived international attention as a stark example of the group’s barbarity. Now it is not just violence that is killing people. The Lake Chad Basin region—which straddles areas of northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and eastern Chad—is facing a hunger crisis.
“When you see that the food is almost finished, the stock we have is about to finish, and you know the children will start crying because there’s no food, I can’t sleep,” says Maryam.
In February, the United Nations declared a famine in South Sudan and said Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia were on the brink of a similar humanitarian disaster. Cameroon, a country of 22 million people, is suffering because of its proximity to Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict has displaced nearly 2.5 million people across the four countries around Lake Chad, and 7.1 million people are considered by the United Nations to be “food insecure.” Cameroon hosts around 85,000 Nigerian refugees and nearly 200,000 internally displaced people (IDPs)—Cameroonians forced from their homes by the conflict spilling over from Nigeria.
Hunger and armed conflict are “very much linked,” says Manuel Fontaine, director of emergency operations at UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency . “We are talking about man-made famine. Yes, there is an issue of climate change in the Lake Chad region. Lake Chad has reduced tremendously—photos from NASA’s Earth Observatory show how the lake shrunk to one-twentieth of its size between 1973 and 2001—and that has implications; it’s a dry environment. But clearly this is man-made.”