Lake Chad: Beyond the alarm bells
ONCE again, problems of the rapidly-shrinking Lake Chad
and the humanitarian disasters attached to it resurfaced
last week when the President of the 73rd United Nations
General Assembly, UNGA, Maria Espinosa-Garces, visited
Nigeria and toured the area.
At a joint news conference in Abuja with the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, Espinosa-Garces rang the
usual alarm bell at the great havoc that the climate change
phenomenon has wreaked on the once mighty Lake which,
only about 40 years ago, covered an area of over 24,000
square kilometres. Today, it has shrunk to just about 2,000,
despite the galloping human population around it.
When exploding population meets shrinking resources, the
result is extreme poverty, which is obviously the major
driver of the Islamist insurgency that has bedevilled areas
around the Lake for the past ten years. Espinosa-Garces
observed that climate change has impacted the Lake Chad
drastically, destroying livelihoods, creating security
problems, stoking hunger and promoting underdevelopment.
Last year alone, two major events that drew the attention of
the world to the Lake Chad disaster took place. On
February 26, 2018, Nigeria and other Lake Chad Basin
countries (Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic) hosted the
International Conference on Lake Chad under the auspices
of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation, UNESCO, in Abuja to develop consensus on
steps needed to be taken to solve problems facing the
Also between September 3 and 4, 2018, more than 70
countries, international organisations and civil society
groups gathered in Berlin, Germany, where funds were
proposed to attack the problems. The sum of $2.17 billion
was announced for the support of humanitarian work, peace
building efforts and development activities in the Lake Chad
countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Multilateral financial institutions also pledged $467 million
in concessional loans.
It is already known that about $50 billion is needed for the
recharging of the Lake with water from the Ubangi River in
the Central African Republic.
However, for any of these laudable plans to yield results,
the Islamic terrorism in the Lake Chad vicinity must first be
eradicated. This is an assignment which is proving very
difficult in spite of the gallant efforts of the Lake Chad
Basin countries which set up a Joint Multinational Task
Force, JMTF, for the purpose. The world must come down
to remove this threat together. Only then can the Lake
Chad be saved.
More than 20 million lives are at stake. If the worst comes,
the human misery and migration problems it will trigger are
better imagined than experienced. The Sahara Desert is
advancing with venom and claiming territories once
occupied by the Lake Chad.
We must go beyond the alarm bells and act to save the