Increasing insecurity and displacement in the Lac province
The latest upsurge in armed attacks and insecurity across the Lake Chad Basin has driven thousands of civilians to seek refuge in Chad’s western Lac province. Renewed violence also disrupts livelihoods and takes a heavy toll on local communities, particularly around Ngouboua, Tchoukoutalia and island areas on the border with Nigeria. Since the beginning of the year, an estimated 40,000 people have reportedly been displaced in the province - including the arrival of refugees from Nigeria, returnees from Niger and the new displacement of previously displaced communities seeking security and assistance. The situation is fluid and population movements are ongoing. Further evaluations are being carried out by humanitarian actors on the ground.
Upsurge in violent attacks targeting civilians
Since the beginning of the joint military operations in Nigeria, alleged armed group incursions are recurrent in Chad, where several attacks attributed to non-state armed groups have resulted in cases of kidnappings, killings and thefts. On 22 May, two separate attacks by armed men were reported, north-west of Diamerom and close to Tchoukoutalia, killing six people and leading to the abduction of over fifty people, including women. On 16 May, an armed group also attacked the village of Selia, located about 30km south-west of Bol, killing 13 people, taking people hostage and burning several houses, making it the largest attack on civilians in 2019. These attacks, incursions and kidnappings of women have led to an increased sense of insecurity among the general population.
Internal displacement increases due to clashes and insecurity
A series of population movements have been reported in the past months, in particular of people fleeing islands and seeking refuge on the mainland. Recent clashes at the end of May between alleged members of a non-state armed group and the national defense and security forces also led to the displacement of hundreds of people who reportedly found refuge in Magar, on the way to Baga Sola. It is also estimated that around 2,000 people fled Fitiné Island after an attack on 4-5 May and found refuge in Kaya, Yakoua and Koudouboul, located around 12km south of Bol. While a multi-sector assessment mission had planned to deploy to these sites on 16 May to confirm and evaluate the needs of newly displaced communities, the newly appointed governor of the Lac province requested the mission be cancelled. According to local authorities, these newly displaced people must return home as soon as possible because measures are being taken to strengthen security around Fitiné and to protect populations. However, for displaced communities to return home voluntarily in safety and dignity, they require accurate and objective information on which to base their decisions. The authorities have a responsibility to ensure this is available as part of their responsibility to establish the conditions and provide the means for safe and voluntary return. Concerns remain regarding the security situation in island areas, as the context continues to be volatile and precarious. According to teams that had visited Kaya and Yakoua sites on 8 and 11 May, a rapid response is necessary considering several risks faced by the displaced: children are currently out of school, people are consuming water from the lake with the risk of waterborne diseases, and their food access is scarce given they are currently being hosted by other formerly-displaced communities.
In early March, some 700 people were also registered near Baga Sola, most of them women and children who fled other displacement sites. An attack in Bourboura in February also led to 1,300 people fleeing the islands south of Bol and finding refuge in Baboul2.
Increasing number of people fleeing bordering countries
Armed attacks and population movements persist across the Lake Chad Basin prompting movements across borders. Following attacks on Baga Kawa in Nigeria, 4,048 people crossed into Ngouboua and were registered in Dar es Salam refugee camp in early January. Upon their arrival, WFP distributed high-energy biscuits and provided them with food vouchers. They have since benefitted from UNHCR's multi-sector assistance. Another 300 people arrived in Kegua in March, having reportedly come from Niger. Already in January, 4,000 people arrived in Diamerom and claimed to have fled from Niger, while authorities have yet to clarify their status.
Protection of civilians remains of utmost importance
In the context of ongoing military operations and the increasing number of reported attacks, the humanitarian community is concerned about the protection of civilians must remain at the centre of response. According to the protection monitoring system in the lake province, 153 cases of gender-based violence were reported in April as well as 57 protection incidents – a probable under-estimation of the total number of cases given the difficulty for protection monitoring agents to access affected communities due to security conditions and geographical constraints. Providing holistic care for victims is also a persistent challenge. This include a lack of legal support, linked to insufficient legal structures in the region, the lack of knowledge of the procedures by victims, and the fear of reprisals and stigmatization, which often pushes victims to decline legal assistance.
Aid delivery continues despite access challenges
Since March, the prevailing insecurity in the province has also led to temporary aid delivery suspensions and movement self-restrictions by several humanitarian organizations in areas around Kaiga Kindjiria, Diamerom, and Boma – affecting programmes which target some 40,000 registered beneficiaries. Despite challenges of access in these areas, humanitarian actors continue to operate in the Lac province to the best of their ability, to ensure delivery of vital aid.
Food insecurity is on the rise again as the lean season begins
Despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, people are still severely affected by the food and nutrition crisis because they have not been able to resume their agricultural activities to meet their needs. In addition, the forthcoming June to August lean season requires anticipating and extending support to displaced populations as well as their host communities in the Lac province, where 133,338* displaced people and 15,915 refugees rely on humanitarian assistance to survive and risk facing worsening levels of food insecurity. Closed borders with Nigeria and Niger, as well as ongoing insecurity, continue to limit access to food markets and trade for populations in the Lac province, despite the reduction of market prices throughout the country.
The humanitarian response continues to be severely underfunded
Increased donor funding is essential to sustain and expand humanitarian operations and save lives. Of the US $476 million required for the whole country, only 23 per cent have been met to date. US $140.4 million are needed to respond to the most urgent needs of over 340,000 people in the Lac province, including 133,000 IDPs, host communities, returnees, and refugees whose population stands at around 15,000. So far this year, only $20,8 million of the funding needed to assist affected families and communities in the Lac province has been provided (15%). In addition, aid agencies have already used much of Chad’s limited contingency stock to respond to the needs of newly-displaced people.
*Source: Displacement Tracking Matrix, Round 8, May 2019 (pending further evaluation results and inclusion of new displacements)