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Lake Chad Basin

BY: Kara Catellier


As the world is continually challenged by natural disasters, viruses, and political conflicts, many humanitarian crises exist with little acknowledgement by the media in daily lives of Americans. Unfortunately, Lake Chad Basin is one of these crises. 


Located in Northern Central Africa, Lake Chad borders four countries: Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. But the Lake Chad “Basin”  covers almost 8% of the continent, spreads over seven countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger and Nigeria. Lake Chad, is one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies as well as a major source of water for around 30 million people. The lake is vanishing at such a fast rate that it is no longer making headline news or grasping the attention of the public (Usigbe, 2019).What is new is the unique and complex humanitarian crisis around the basin, which is among the most severe in the world. These people's livelihoods are already revolving around extreme poverty rates, poor services surrounding education and basic healthcare, with the adapting climate. Currently 2.4 million people in the region are displaced and over 5 million people are struggling to find access to enough food to survive resulting in 500,00 children are now suffering from severe acute malnutrition(Usigbe, 2019). Lake Chad’s water body has diminished by over 90% since the 1960’s due to overuse and climate change. Families who had previously been relying on the lake have moved to new areas in search of water (Usigbe, 2019).

The Issue

Before violence struck the region, most people in the surrounding Lake Chad Basin area were already experiencing high poverty rates, poor provision of basic services like education and healthcare, and the various impacts of climate change. However, when violence hit, approximately 10.7 million people in the Lake Chad region were and still are in need of emergency services and assistance (Usigbe, 2019). As the population in the region continues to increase, water from the basin is being used at a more rapid rate, causing the problem to worsen. According to the United Nations, 80 to 90 percent of livelihoods of the Lake Chad population depend on agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, and with the water supply becoming more limited each day, more people are struggling with food insecurity(Usigbe, 2019). Global Acute Malnutrition in the region now stands at 12.2%, while severe acute malnutrition is 2.1%, exceeding the emergency threshold. With only 10 doctors in the region, humanitarian assistance is needed to preserve the lives of over 30 million people (Usigbe, 2019).

As a result of the instability, terrorists known as Boko Haram, terrorize the region causing violence and instilling fear. Alongside the violence and food insecurity, people of the Lake Chad Region face another issue: lack of education. As a result of the violence, over 1000 schools have been shut down(Yameogo,2018). Educational opportunities for over 3.5 million children are at risk according to UNICEF. Education can be life saving and sets one up for a better future. The crisis in the Lake Chad Region endangers that chance for the millions of children.(Yameogo,2018)


In early 2018, Italy and China took steps to solving the Chad Lake crisis.  The proposed solution has been given the operation name “Transaqua.”  More specifically, they proposed a solution to the water problem ( Findlay,2018).  Their proposed solution involved creating a 2,600 km canal from the Democratic Republic of Congo to supplement the Chari River, which provides freshwater to Lake Chad.  However, the proposed solution is incredibly complicated as it involves numerous countries, some of which are not on great diplomatic terms.  Moreover, the violence in the region has made taking any action drastically more difficult (Findlay,2018).  The solution requires a three-year feasibility study before any work could begin and run as high as $14 billion dollars for the Italians, who submitted the idea in partnership with the Power Construction Corporation of China (Findlay,2018).

The Lake Chad Basin area is greatly in need of help as financial resources and healthcare infrastrcutures are stretched thin. International organizations, such as the World Health Organization, and non-profit groups have tried funding to help improve the area but have not received enough funds to make a difference. According to the World Health Organization these groups have only received approximately 13% of the required funds to implement resources, with 5% of these resources coming from WHO themselves( Diaz-Herrera, 2015). In order to help Lake Chad Basin people can fundraise and make donations to organizations such as WHO and International Committee of the Red Cross. Methods of funding could include selling items and making a gofundme page. Everybody on committees and volunteer organizations can promote the fundraisers on social media and work to support those in need.


It is easy to take for guaranteed necessities in life such as water, food, shelter, and hope.  There is so much we can do as a community to raise awareness and help support friends from around the world as they face their own battles. A little support can make a big impact. 

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