A surge in Boko Haram violence has forced several major aid agencies to suspend operations in part of western Chad, leaving tens of thousands of people without food and health services for weeks, the United Nations said.
More than 150,000 people rely on aid to survive across the islands of Lake Chad, a battleground for the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Six aid organisations suspended operations in the island areas after a series of militant attacks in late September and early October and have yet to resume, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA declined to name the agencies for security reasons, but the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said it was one of the six.
Mbili Ambaoumba, UNHCR’s Chad representative, said most aid providers in the region had suspended their activities, and that the attacks are presumed to have been carried out by Boko Haram.
“Aid agencies were providing basic social services such as health, education, and safe drinking water,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This will definitely have an impact.”
WFP said it had halted food aid in part of the Lac region since a deadly attack on Oct. 10. In September it provided food to about 120,000 displaced people in the area, the agency added.
“The security situation in the Lac region has deteriorated over the past six weeks, with… nocturnal attacks, pillaging and systematic burning of houses,” said a WFP spokeswoman.
OCHA said in a statement that 13 people had been killed and five kidnapped in seven attacks in the Bol and Baga-Sola areas of the Lac region in late September, and that the multinational task force battling Boko Haram had brought in reinforcements.
“Humanitarian actors in Chad are concerned about the resurgence of security incidents in the Lac region,” said OCHA’s interim head of office Abdoulaye Sawadogo.
“They are putting every effort into resuming operations and ensuring safe delivery of aid to the most vulnerable populations,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Boko Haram has been fighting for nine years to carve out an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The violence has killed more than 30,000 people and displaced about 2.7 million across the four countries, but Chad has suffered fewer attacks overall than its neighbours.