Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Author: Kieran Guilbert
DAKAR, Feb 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The successful delivery of food aid to thousands of people uprooted by Boko Haram violence in Chad and cut off from help since November may reflect improving security in the West African nation, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) recently delivered food to 5,000 people who had been forced to flee their homes by conflict at five sites north of Lake Chad border town Baga Sola.
But the threat of Boko Haram militants and the difficulty in reaching some areas, partly because of the lack of roads, are hindering efforts to reach tens of thousands more people.
« It has been a challenge to push the government to let us get to where we need to go, even with the necessary military escorts, » said Stephen Tull, Chad coordinator for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
« Yet I believe access was granted here as the military grew in confidence that it was gaining control of the area ».
More than 100,000 people are uprooted in Chad because of the violence in the Lake Chad region of militant group Boko Haram, OCHA said.
A regional offensive by Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon last year drove Boko Haram from much of the territory it held in northern Nigeria, undermining its six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.
But the militants have since struck back with a renewed wave of deadly raids and suicide bombings in the lawless Lake Chad area where the borders of the four West African countries meet.
The violence has disrupted livelihoods including fishing and farming, hit cross-border trade and markets and left one in seven people in the country without enough to eat.
« People have been really scraping the barrel to survive… some said that they have been surviving only on maize for weeks, » said WFP Chad country director Mary-Ellen McGroarty.
The WFP is working to reach 17 more sites in the area north of Baga Sola which have not received any aid, and provide food for some 35,000 displaced people by the end of the month.
« There are no roads so reaching these sites means a 300 kilometre (190 mile) round trip in the sand. We would like to move quicker but the challenges are enormous, » McGroarty added.
Because it is focusing on providing aid to the newly displaced, the WFP cannot get enough aid to those who have been uprooted for longer, regional director Denise Brown said.
« A lack of funding is forcing us to make tough choices… it is a balancing act, » said Brown.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)