Maroua, Cameroon — A top U.N. official for central Africa recently visited the Lake Chad Basin to assess living conditions in the area. Years of attacks by Boko Haram have left much of the infrastructure there in ruins.
Francois Lounceny Fall, the U.N. Secretary General's special representative in central Africa, says attacks by the jihadist group have diminished over the past five months.
Fall says the U.N. is mobilizing the international community to support the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a regional military alliance, as it fights against the extremist group for a lasting peace to return. He says he is visiting Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger to assess ways to start rebuilding and focus on reducing poverty.
Those four countries contribute troops to the MNJTF, along with Benin.
Fall said the U.N. Development Program is raising funds to build roads linking Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad to facilitate movement of people and goods. He said the UNDP is also helping villagers to plant trees.
He said the U.N. refugee agency is helping displaced persons return to their villages, establishing lost documents like birth certificates, and providing funds for women to open businesses.
The U.N. reports that a majority of the estimated 40 million people in the Lake Chad Basin live in poor conditions, partly due to Boko Haram's attacks.
Civilians need assistance and are asking Cameroonian authorities and the U.N., to help them create better conditions, notes Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of Cameroon's Far North region on the border with Nigeria and Chad.
Bakari says that economic activity is picking up gradually after more than 10 years of inactivity due to instability caused by Boko Haram attacks. He says within the past 5 months, civilians and merchants have been travelling freely with their goods between Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad.
He also said although there is apparent calm, Cameroonian troops fighting terrorism on the northern border with Nigeria are on standby to protect civilians, should there be a large-scale attack by jihadist groups.
Cameroon's government says it has allocated 300 million dollars to reconstruct infrastructure destroyed by Boko Haram. It says that in some of the relatively calm areas, construction of schools, water wells and toilets and dozens of markets and hospitals has begun.
Officials from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria met in Cameroon's capital Yaounde on October 8 and agreed to work together to rebuild areas destroyed by Boko Haram.
The officials said the Lake Chad basin is gradually returning to normalcy since Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was declared dead in May.
Still, they said unemployment may be pushing young people to join the jihadist group, which continues to recruit in the area.