Relief is coming the way of the about 30 million inhabitants of the Lake Chad Basin, as the World Bank announced the approval of 346 million dollars for two key projects in the region to strengthen the resilience and livelihoods of those living in the area.
In a statement issued in Washington, the Bretton Woods institution said the first project, Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project (PROLAC), which will cost 170 million dollars, will support national and regional coordination platforms and local capacity building, contribute to restore sustainable rural mobility and connectivity and strengthen the recovery of agricultural livelihoods in selected provinces in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
It said the project would also contribute to the rehabilitation of rural roads and small transport infrastructure and promote productive investments by helping agricultural producers to increase production in some areas in Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
The second project, the Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project for the North Eastern Nigeria, Additional Financing (MCRP AF), which will gulp 176 million dollars, will help the government to improve access to basic services and livelihood opportunities for crisis-affected communities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states while enhancing coordination among these states and other Lake Chad countries.
The bank's Director of Regional Integration for Africa, Deborah Wetzel, said the framework being created by the two interventions "will lay the foundation for future regional and coordinated investments that will improve access to regional markets, promote value chains development and revive cross-border and regional trade".
The Lake Chad, once one of Africa's largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million, is receding fast, creating a unique and complex humanitarian crisis that is one of the worst in the world.
According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, widespread violence in the region has left 10.7 million people in the area in need of humanitarian assistance with thousands of IDPs in various camps in the region facing lack of adequate water, shelter, food, water and sanitation.
"Now 2.3 million people across the region are displaced; over five million are struggling to access enough food to survive; and half a million children are suffering from acute malnutrition," said UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, during a high-level event on the humanitarian situation in the region.
Since 1960, the water body of the lake has diminished by 90 percent due to overuse and climate change effects leading to conflicts between herders and farmers.
In addition, countries in the region are now battling on several fronts against terrorists who have taken a large chunk of the area, stifling any effort to mitigate the situation.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been at the forefront of efforts by leaders of the Lake Chad Basin Commission towards replenishment of the lake.
In the last two years, the UN has co-hosted two back-to-back international donor conferences towards achieving this. The first in Oslo where donors pledged 672 million dollars in emergency assistance, and the second in Berlin, where donors announced 2.17 billion dollars, including 467 million dollars in concessional loans, to support activities in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
As we welcome the World Bank's intervention to ameliorate the sufferings of the inhabitants of the region, we would advise that benefiting countries must ensure transparency in the implementation of the programme. Africa is tired of sad tales of mismanagement of efforts by bilateral and multilateral donors, who come in to remedy our situations. This assistance must reach the benefiting population.
Secondly, countries in the region must intensify efforts to rid the basin of all terrorist activities. Peace remains the key to any development and the situation in Lake Chad could not be improved until the security situation is addressed.