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Latest from Lake Chad Basin.

Most people have never heard of Lake Chad, but for millions of people living in the Sahel region of central Africa, this lake is their lifeblood. In recent years, climate change has dried up much of the lake — creating an extreme drought.

As Lake Chad shrinks, extremism grows on its shores. This crisis has left nine million people across Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in need of life-saving assistance. In their desperation, many are turning to previously unthinkable options in order to survive; some have risked everything to cross the Sahara for work while others have joined Boko Haram, exchanging violent service for survival.

Five months ago, 27-year-old Alioune left everything behind in search of a more stable life. After traveling across the Sahara and arriving in Libya, Alioune was held hostage in a locked courtyard by traffickers wanting money. He was beaten, tortured and witnessed his fellow travelers killed when ransom wasn’t paid. 

Though Alioune escaped with his life, he was kidnapped again on his journey and a friend was forced to pay for his release. Now, broken, disillusioned, and scared, Alioune is returning home. He says, “Dreams are powerful, but mine have ended. 

Alioune also laments the lives and livelihoods lost on his journey. He adds, “I saw people killed by bullets, others left behind to die in the desert. Many have lost their money. One brother traveled with a bag with his family’s gold jewelry. Gone. Others lost members of their family. 

Everybody has lost something on this way. We all lost our souls. All that’s left now is deep regrets. I have not found what I was looking for. I come back with empty hands. And life will be even more difficult than before as I lost my job.”  

Though many know of the dangers on the journey across the Sahara, thousands still place their lives in the hands of traffickers — the only option they see to escaping poverty, drought and violent extremism in villages controlled by Boko Haram. So far, the violent conflict has uprooted 2.7 million people, making the Lake Chad Basin Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis.

Thankfully, leaders around the world are starting to take note. In a passionate speech before the United Nations Economic and Social Council on 27 June, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, implored world leaders and all in attendance to do more to meet the needs of people facing acute malnutrition, sexual assault and violent extremism in the region. The next day, US$15 million was released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to respond to the crisis. We need more decisive leadership to prioritize the response to this crisis — and you can help.

Most people still don’t know what is happening in the Lake Chad Basin.

Messenger of Humanity

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