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Charities unite to end religious conflict in Lake Chad region

by Tola Mbakwe

Germany, Nigeria, Norway, and the United Nations organised one of the year's largest pledging conferences for Africa's Lake Chad region (north-east Nigeria and parts of Niger, Chad and Cameroon) on Monday and Tuesday in Berlin.

Robert Cruickshank, who is in charge of humanitarian programmes in Africa for UK Christian charity CAFOD, told Premier the crisis started about ten years ago due to poverty, climate change and scarce resources like land and water.

"If you are a farmer trying to practice agriculture with very little water, you suffer and need to think about changing what you're growing," he said.

"[If you are] somebody who raises cattle, goats or camels, you need water for your very existence and as that has diminished, making a living in that area has become harder."

According to CAFOD, the crisis that has impacted 11 million people and displaced 2 million has been made worse by religious conflict.

Cruickshank added: "Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully together for many decades but people are now exploiting religious differences around the access to resources.

"They've turned what essentially is a conflict about access to resources into a religious conflict."

He said CAFOD has been working with both Muslim and Christians to bring about peace.

The high-level conference focuses on humanitarian assistance, civilian protection, crisis prevention and stabilisation for the region and will seek to raise funds for the humanitarian requirements totalling £1.2 billion.

Ministers from countries in the Lake Chad region, alongside donors, UN agencies, international and national organisations are in attendance.

Christian charities like Caritas, have the chance to voice their concerns and talk about how to strengthen collaboration between the affected countries during the meeting.

The charity will advise that the governments will put policies in place to resolve the root causes of the land conflicts and should devise education programmes that contribute towards building an active civil society with communities aware of their rights and how to obtain them.

"The governments need to make sure people are effectively actors in their own development so that people of the region are involved in making decisions that affect them," Cruickshank said.

"We would like to see governments ensure people's safe return to their communities so that they can start to re-establish their lives."
The European Commission announced during the conference new funding of €138 million combining humanitarian and development assistance. This is part of an overall EU aid package for the region worth €232 million.

Listen to Robert Cruickshank speaking with Premier's Tola Mbakwe here: 

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