Children of the Lake Chad Basin: The vulnerable, looking after the vulnerable
In crisis, children regularly miss out on opportunities. They are forced to drop out of school, thrown out of home, and find themselves struggling in ways they had never imagined. Tidjani, 14, is among the 1.4 million vulnerable children affected by the Lake Chad Basin crisis, in need of protection and education.
Tidjani, 14, fled her home town of Damasak in Nigeria when her village was attacked two years ago. She is currently living in a refugee camp in Niger. Instead of going to school, she spends most of her time at home looking after her 60-year-old blind grandmother, Aichatou, and her brother who lives with a debilitating mental condition.
“She does not go to school, she is here with me. If she goes to school, no one will take care of the house and of us,” says Aichatou.
Children such as Tidjani, who are head of the household, are more vulnerable than others. They are often forced to grow up before their time, faced with the responsibility of having to provide food, medication and other material needs. Often they miss out on school and may be more vulnerable to child labour as they look for ways to provide for their family.
Even though nearly 1,000 children attend the Child Friendly Space run by World Vision in the camp, Tidjani doesn’t go there. “The children there are much younger and the games are the kind that little children like. I would love to play and learn with girls my age”, said Tidjani. But she is getting help with water and hygiene.
When Shirley, our Humanitarian Accountability Specialist, visited Tidjani she was moved by the plight of this family slipping through the cracks: “It is people like Aichatou and her grandchildren that give me a reason to keep advocating for the special inclusion of the vulnerable in humanitarian emergency responses. Their situations have ripple effects, as is the case for Tidjani who cannot go to school because she needs to attend to disadvantaged members of her family,” says Shirley.
This encounter reinforced for me the need to intentionally seek out the vulnerable and marginalised wherever we work so we hear not only from those who we see and hear, but also those who cannot step forward and raise their voices due to their vulnerabilities. Each person has the right to raise their voice.
- Shirley, Humanitarian Accountability Specialist
As the situation in the Lake Chad Basin continues, seemingly unnoticed by the wider world, donors and humanitarians met in Oslo, Norway. We stressed the need for all those involved to urgently prioritise child protection and education in emergencies.
Delays will increase the financial and human costs as a generation of children miss out on education, and feel the burden of experiencing violence for far too long. It is important to prioritise protection and enhance education today.
The ongoing conflict in the Lake Chad Basin has left more than 10.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. 2.4 million people have been forcibly displaced by violence and conflict – more than 1.2 million of them are children. To find out more about our emergency work in Lake Chad Basin, click here.