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Stabilizing a region ravaged by conflict is no easy feat, particularly when that region remains a hotspot for violent acts perpetrated by extremist groups.
Approximately 10.7 million people in the Lake Chad Basin region (parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) are directly affected by this crisis, and close to a quarter of that number have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Despite this reality, a different story is being told on the ground. Spread out over 7 Key Impact Areas – Education, Health, Security, Justice, Environment, Communal Support and Livelihood; the Lake Chad Basin is being transformed, and its people are at the heart of it.
Over 30,000 households have been provided with access to healthcare, education, justice, alternative livelihood options, and over 1,800 houses, market stalls, and waterlines constructed to support communities and enhance cross-border economic activities in restive parts of the Lake Chad Basin impacted by acts of violent extremism.
That, however, is not where the story began.
In late 2018, at a meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission’s (LCBC) Council of Ministers, a Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience of Boko Haram-affected Areas of the Lake Chad Basin (RSS) was presented as a robust framework for addressing these complex and urgent challenges. It recognizes the need for a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and coordinated set of national and cross-border efforts.
“The Lake Chad crisis is of global concern, and neither its causes nor its effects respect national borders. The Regional Strategy for Stabilization Recovery and Resilience (RSS) provides us with instruments and resources to go beyond borders and military operations and promote cross-border cooperation on security and stabilization, early recovery, and development” said Chika Charles Aniekwe, Senior Advisor and Head of Regional Stabilization Strategy Secretariat (RSS Secretariat). “The RSS is premised on a new way of working through the whole of society approach that connects regional challenges at the communities with regional solutions. It brings communities back at the center of the solution under the leadership of the Governors. It provides a framework for regional and cross-border cooperation, which is essential to tackle the Lake Chad crisis,” he added.
This strategy symbolized strong commitment on the part of relevant stakeholders in the region to usher in an era of peace, stability and development.
Almost a year later, a funding facility known as the Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF), consisting of support from Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Union (EU), was established to facilitate the strategy's implementation. What followed was a significant shift signaling partners' willingness to drive positive change and local peoples' resilience to build back their communities.
This paved the way for concrete actions built around key national and Regional Territorial Action Plans.
At the national level, the RSF has supported governments and affected local authorities to strengthen social contracts, re-establish trust, law and order and opened new channels for cross border trade, construction of infrastructure such as cross – border roads, notably in the border region of Nigeria – Cameroon. The Facility has improved security conditions for affected communities and enhanced access to livelihood options.
At the regional level, the RSF has supported the LCBC in establishing the Stabilization Secretariat, ensuring institutionalisation of governance and coordination structures, including a high-level strategic Steering Committee, and a robust nexus coordination approach to stabilization, recovery, and resilience through the establishment of the LCBC Task Force of Implementing Partners. The RSF has also led to the development and elaboration of the Territorial Action Plan for long term stabilization, recovery and resilience interventions.
The onset of COVID-19 threatened to hinder stability gains in the region and expose vulnerable communities to a heightened level of economic instability. However, what was a threat in many ways proved to show the willingness of partners in the region to respond to the dangers faced by Lake Chad Basin (LCB) communities. The RSF traced and analyzed COVID-19 evolution and response strategies in the LCB territories of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria and provided initial rapid analysis and assessment of its implications for priority themes of the Regional Stabilization Strategy and the mandate of the Regional Stabilization Facility.