"CRS Photo of the Month: Building Sustainable Livelihoods" (CatholicMom.com) Photo by Michael Stulman/Catholic Relief Services. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

At 60 years old, Moussa Mai left everything he’d ever worked for and traveled for 4 days to escape Boko Haram. He arrived in the village of Kaya, Chad, with nothing but the clothes on his back. His story is a common one there, similar to his fishing partner Hassane Issa, who arrived in Kaya a year ago. Together, the men work to earn a living in their new community, to give back to the hosts there who have helped feed and shelter them.

"This is the land of the peace," says Moussa. "When we arrived, we went to the village chief and he gave us land so we could start a life here.”

But it’s not easy. While the community is generous, they are facing challenges of their own. With changing weather patterns and environmental degradation, Lake Chad, where Moussa and Hassane fish, is shrinking fast—almost 90 percent since the 1960s. This, combined with the strained resources of a massive influx of refugees, means at least 9.2 million people who depend on the lake are now struggling to secure food, clean water and basic necessities.

“Before the lake was large, but it’s getting so small that fishing nets get caught on the bottom,” says Moussa. “Fishing isn’t sufficient anymore.”

That’s why Catholic Relief Services is helping to support more than 1,000 refugee and host families in the area. Families receive vouchers to shop for up to 2 months’ worth of food and livestock at local markets to help them through the lean season. Those most in need also receive corn seeds and fishing equipment so they can build sustainable livelihoods over the long term.

To learn more, visit crs.org/stories/surviving-boko-haram.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stulman/Catholic Relief Services