By Akanimo Sampson
Over 300,000 people are set to benefit from a $8.00 million project implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Chad’s Lake, Kanem and Barh el Ghazel provinces.
The project aims at contributing to community stabilisation and strengthening livelihoods.
Funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the project Community Stabilisation through Durable Return Solutions, Governance and Livelihood Development in the Lake Chad Region, will support holistic community stabilisation in conflict-affected communities and youth at risk in the wider Lake Chad region.
IOM Chad Chief of Mission, Anne Schaefer, says “IOM is one of the only humanitarian actors in the region and has continuously been a key actor responding to the needs of internal displaced persons and migrants through collaboration with local authorities and organizations since 2009.”
The UN migration agency will also work with gender and protection partners to increase women’s access to local governance. By setting up local women’s groups, providing income generating activities, education, protection against gender-based discrimination, mental health and psychosocial support IOM seeks to empower those among the most vulnerable of the population.
Country Director of KOICA Cameroon Office, Kyuhong Lee, says “KOICA expects that the project could contribute to the socio-economic development of the region and ultimately could support the peacebuilding process of the region and Chad.”
In Chad’s wider Lake region, more than 360,000 people currently are displaced according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).
Across the region, the cumulative effects of chronic underdevelopment, climate change, environmental degradation and destruction caused by a prolonged conflict against armed non-state actors have weakened basic administrative and social structures such as healthcare and education, leaving populations in situations of extreme vulnerability and fragility.
A 2018 assessment of 800 individuals in Bol sous-prefecture, located in the Lac Province, revealed that fewer than 1% of respondents had basic literacy skills, fewer than 10% lived in communities with access to school. Virtually none of those interviewed were living in communities with access to a health centre.
The lack of citizenship integration among both displaced persons and local communities further deepens the vulnerabilities. Across the region, lack of formal documentation of citizenship often raises the risk of being marginalised and excluded from access to social services.
“It is vital that we address the drivers of fragility by fostering transparent and inclusive processes for collective decision-making, by ensuring women fully participate in such processes, and by empowering communities of return and returning IDPs to re-establish socio-economic activities”, adds IOM’s Anne Schaefer.
Famata has lived at the Foulatari displacement site in the Lake Chad region for four years, having fled her native island of Choukouli following an attack by Boko Haram. She is the mother of eight children.
“Boko Haram arrived during the night and quickly started burning everything,’’ she explained. “All everyone could think to do was take the hands of their children and run. Without thinking, without looking back, just try to escape. If you did not flee, they would kill you.”
On foot, she escaped with her family to what is now Foulatari, along with others who fled the attack. They all had only the clothes on their back, thinking they would one day be able to return to gather their belongings. Yet, when she returned just to grab a few items, her husband had been killed and everything else burned—animals, home, every piece of her life
“They burned everything, nothing remained,” she recounted.
Famata has now found her place at Foulatari, being one of the strong voices for the community and playing a major role in the preparation for community events. She takes pride in her role, smiling when others enjoy the feasts that she prepares. She also helps in resolving community conflicts that arise. She emphasized the continued need for support, especially for the youth of the community, as poverty is rampant, access to water is becoming increasingly challenging and all are struggling day to day to meet basic needs.
Yet despite the adversity she faces, Famata remains positive, motivated and determined to make the best of her situation, not only for herself but for her community.
In the targeted communities, IOM will rehabilitate key social and administrative infrastructures and provide vocational skills training in literacy, business, household management, and accounting, improve access to social services such as identification, and help communities to become resilient.