I travelled to southern Chad where humanitarian needs have increased because of an influx of people who fled from fighting between rival armed groups in neighbouring Central African Republic (C.A.R.). The area is littered with villages where refugees and local communities live together. The hosts have been sharing the little they have with those who crossed the border to find safety.
“We were welcomed by the people here. Some of us had family members already in Chad, the same way as there are Chadians living in C.A.R.,” says Mbaindorou Ledingard Elisée, Representative of the new refugees in the village of Beakoro.
Around 30,000 refugees have arrived in southern Chad from C.A.R. since late December 2017. Host communities who are themselves poor, vulnerable to climate change and affected by interruptions in cross-border trade, ended up with extra mouths to feed. They quickly ran out of food and other basic needs. By February, an Emergency Food Security Assessment showed alarming levels of food insecurity among people.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has mounted an urgent response to support people in need. With most of them spread out in numerous, small villages along the border that are hard to access, especially in the rainy season, WFP had to rethink its tactics to serve people. It partnered with local traders, who can transport food from their main shops to distribution sites in every village.
Refugees receive a value voucher, tailored to the size of their family, which they redeem against a list of products. This strengthens choice, convenience and dignity.
At a distribution site in Don, a village located 2km away from the River Logone that separates both countries, refugees choose between some 15 to 20 products, including flours and canned food cans.
Don hosts close to 2,000 women, men and children that fled clashes in northern C.A.R since late December 2017. Most are happy to receive assistance, but the scars of war are still deep and disturbing.
“I’ve been told that my husband died months ago, but I don’t know where he was killed. I have not yet found out where he is buried,” Asmand Jeanne Caroline tells me. “I came to Chad with my 11 children because the war arrived at my village. We could not bring anything with us; no food, no goods. We only brought our bodies.”
Most of the refugees say the conditions are not conducive for their return to C.A.R. Fighting may have reduced because of rainy season that hampers movement, but insecurity is still rife.
Staying in Chad comes with its own challenges, though. Limited funding means aid groups cannot cater to their vital needs in a country which is reeling from a severe economic crisis. Humanitarian partners are thus considering to progressively move to early recovery and self-sufficiency programmes that strengthen livelihoods and provide income-generating opportunities.
In the meantime, rain has now enabled cereals to grow. Villagers will be able to collect the long-awaited harvest in a few weeks. It may not be enough, but it is better than nothing.
WFP is able to deliver emergency food assistance to newly arrived refugees from C.A.R in Chad thanks to the support of the United Nation’s Central Emergency response Fund (CERF), the United Kingdom (DFID), the European Union (ECHO) and the United States (USAID-Food for Peace).
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