The Lake Chad Water Crisis Leaves Millions at Risk of Disease
The humanitarian disaster in Lake Chad is worsening without access to clean water and sanitation.
In many parts of the world, rain brings waterborne disease. Nowhere is this more true than in conflict-affected areas.
The nations around Lake Chad including Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon have been experiencing regional insecurity and mass population movement because of the Boko Haram insurgency. Those in Northeast Nigeria have been disproportionately affected, with 35,000 lives lost and 1.8 million refugees.
And now the rainy season is causing greater instability. The region already suffers from a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, which leaves people at risk of various diseases like cholera, diarrheal diseases, and hepatitis E. For example, in the conflict-affected Diffa region there have been approximately 900 cases of hepatitis E confirmed in 2017 and these cases were most likely exacerbated by the flooding, according to USAID.
Another consequence of increased flooding is that there are more standing water pools that attract more mosquitoes and increase the risk of contracting malaria.
Further, flooding has made it harder for humanitarian aid to reach remote areas. In Nigeria particularly, security concerns made it difficult to deliver supplies ahead of the rains, leaving many people without vital aid.
According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 5.6 million children living throughout the Lake Chad region who are in need of humanitarian assistance, including access to clean water and sanitation. This is especially important because without clean water and sanitation, these children are at heightened risk for contracting cholera and other water-borne diseases.
UNICEF is working at a community level to determine clean water and sanitation needs throughout the region. They’re also working with partners in communities with a particularly high risk of cholera outbreak and teaching families about steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of disease.
Ultimately, there’s a massive funding gap for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response in the Lake Chad region. But despite only getting 20% of requested funds, UNICEF aims to provide 2.7 million people with a supply of clean water.