We Can't Forget Chad
by Carmen Tremblay, senior emergency response manager for CARE Canada. Carmen traveled to Chad in April to support CARE's emergency response to increasing humanitarian needs in the country.
May 24, 2013 – Many of us do not think of Chad when we think of an emergency. The country is rarely in the news, dwarfed by larger conflicts around the world.
However, the landlocked state sits in a volatile neighborhood, with Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, Central African Republic and Cameroon to the south, and Nigeria and Niger to the west.
So, when trouble occurs in these surrounding countries, where do people tend to flee? Chad.
In early 2013, the UNHCR estimated that there were more than half a million displaced people in Chad – this includes refugees, asylum-seekers and internally-displaced persons (IDPs).
The presence of over 300,000 refugees – the majority of whom are from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) – weighs heavily on Chad's limited resources, as the country is one of the poorest in the world.
CARE began operations in Chad in 1975, implementing both humanitarian and development programming, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of the refugee populations fleeing violence in their own countries.
When I visited a number of refugee camps in Chad in late April of this year, I was struck by the vulnerabilities of these displaced and traumatized populations, particularly the women and children.
To the south, the recent political turmoil in the Central African Republic (CAR) has led to a new wave of people seeking refuge in Chad over the last few months. According to the UNHCR, more than 6,500 people have left CAR in 2013 to escape the renewed fighting, looting and instability of this often forgotten crisis. Many of the newly-arrived refugees are elderly, sick, pregnant women, children or mentally and physically disabled people. These new arrivals are being integrated into existing camps in southern Chad, where CARE works.
"The recent influx of refugees has greatly strained resources at Chadian camps," says Bonaventure Wakara, CARE Chad's country director. "A lack of shelter supplies has meant that some refugees have spent nearly a week sleeping under trees, with no protection from the sun, wind and rain. We are increasingly concerned about the supply of water, sanitary infrastructure, food and schools in the camps to support this growing refugee population."
To the southeast, a resurgence of the fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan has left nearly 30,000 refugees in its wake, as well as 20,000 Chadian returnees. While visiting the Goz Amer refugee camp near the southeastern border of Chad, a group of Sudanese women – many left alone to care for their children in the camp – shared with us their harrowing stories.
|Â© 2013 CARE|
They described an attack on their villages from armed men who threw explosives into the shops and houses early one morning. They spoke of gathering their children in their arms and fleeing, leaving behind what little food and belongings they had. And they spoke about wanting to be safe, far away from the fighting and violence.
The pressure of the massive presence of refugees on scarce resources in Chad also makes life increasingly difficult for local communities. Chadians already face hard living conditions coupled with recurring natural catastrophes (such as frequent drought and flooding), as well as a volatile domestic political environment.
CARE is focusing much of its response to the refugee crisis in Chad on meeting the increasing needs of those arriving through entry points in the south. Overall, CARE's country office in Chad is now providing support to more than 58,600 refugees in southern Chad and is closely monitoring the ongoing humanitarian situation in the southeast and throughout the country.
They may arrive from the north, south, east and west, for different reasons and with different stories, but ultimately, the end conclusion is the same: the plight of Chad's refugee, displaced and returnee population cannot be ignored.