Hunted by a coalition of armies after brutally killing thousands of people in 2014, members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram are now hiding on hundreds of small, inaccessible islands scattered across Lake Chad, a large and shallow body of water bordered by Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria.
The lake, which provides water to more than 68 million people, is already losing vegetation and wildlife due to desertification. Now, in Chad, one of the poorest areas in the region, Boko Haram has started attacking neighboring villages, burning down houses, and jeopardizing communities already devastated by hunger, malnutrition, and a trade embargo with Nigeria.
In recent months, nearly 20,000 refugees and displaced people have fled northern Nigeria and Lake Chad islands occupied by Boko Haram, seeking shelter near the Chadian village of Bagasola on the banks of the lake. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has opened a camp called Dar Es Salam to receive them, but the living conditions are extreme.
In addition to food shortages and disease, the climate is often unbearable, with strong winds, sandstorms, and temperatures that can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
According to OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), the crisis is not receiving the necessary support from donors and the international community. Not even a third of the emergency funds sought by the agency have been collected.
VICE News journeyed into Chadian territory, finding a fragile and unstable region on the banks of despair.
All photos by Tomaso Clavarino.
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