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What is the Forgotten Crisis?

Also called the Boko Haram Crisis, the Lake Chad Basin Crisis affects some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Reaching across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, it is a huge and complex humanitarian crisis with many causes.

Extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change are just some of the factors at play, alongside growing insecurity caused by Boko Haram attacks.

Why is it forgotten?

Could you point to Lake Chad Basin on a map? Have you heard much about the crisis in the news recently?

If the answer is ‘no’, you’re not alone. It is called the forgotten crisis because it receives little media attention from western countries.

Boko Haram gained notoriety when it kidnapped over 300 young girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014. The world responded with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But the issues in Lake Chad continue with women and children continuing to be targeted.

Where is Lake Chad?

  • Map of Lake Chad in 1973
    The disappearing waters of Lake Chad, shown here in 1973.
  • Map of Lake Chad in 2017
    Lake Chad in 2017 (Image source: NASA Earth Observatory)
  • Map of Lake Chad in 1973
  • Map of Lake Chad in 2017

Lake Chad is a freshwater lake that that straddles Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.

It was once one of the largest lakes in Africa, providing water for over 30 million people.

Historically, local people relied on the lake for their livelihoods, living on the plentiful fish and fertile land. But since the 1960’s, the lake has shrunk by about 90%, turning the area to desert. This is reportedly due to a mix of climate change, increasing population, overuse and irrigation.

In one of the hottest places on earth, it is now almost impossible to make a living from the land or the lake.


Who is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is an extremist religious and militant group that opposes western education and influence in Nigeria.

The terrorist organisation has raged violent conflict in Nigeria since 2009, which has spread to neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

As Boko Haram has occupied territory, farmers and fishermen can no longer access what is left of the lake and lands.

Today, Boko Haram continue mass atrocities on villages - looting, killing, abducting women and children and conscripting men and boys into their army.

One of the worst examples of Boko Haram terror and abuse is the use of children, mostly girls, as ‘human bombs’. Young girls are used as suicide bombers and have explosives strapped to their bodies.

The words ‘Boko Haram’ roughly translate to ‘western education is a sin’ and thousands of schools have been attacked, looted and burned. Over 1,000 children have been abducted and thousands of teachers killed.

Who is affected?

Lake Chad Basin who is affected

Over 17 million people live in the affected area – that’s around the same number of people living in Greater London and the South East of England.

Around 10.7 million people are in need of help of some form, with 2.3 million people estimated to be displaced – meaning they have been forced to flee their homes with nothing.

There is little shelter for families who have fled. Ongoing military and terror offensives mean many people can move suddenly into camps and informal settlements, making conditions worse.

There is also little food, which is called food insecurity, and families are very vulnerable to disease, especially Cholera.

Working in Lake Chad Basin ShelterBox

How are we helping?

Families in Lake Chad desperately need help.

We're supporting families fleeing Boko Haram with essential items including tents, tarpaulins, toolkits, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, water carriers, solar lights, and blankets.

We’ve helped over 11,000 families so far, mostly in Cameroon, but also in Chad and Niger. There are so many more that need our help and we are determined to help as many as we can.


“In my shelter I can recover in my own privacy, and I have the feeling of security for all of us. My children also recovered some peace and freedom. They can play and sleep well whenever they want.”

“This tent and the other items we have been given have made my life so much better. I can sleep at night and stay with my family peacefully.”

Find out more