Voices from the Sahel

Inadequate rainfall during the last planting season has led to an early start to the hunger season in Chad’s Sahel regions, with more than 900,000 men, women and children facing food shortages. Read some of their stories

Nathalie Magnien
Apr 23, 2018 · 5 min read
Children in Boroumtchouloum village, Lake Chad region, Chad. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

It takes a jolting ride of two hours on a sandy track from Bol, the main town of the Lake region, to reach the village of Bouroumtchouloum located on a sand dune with the waters of Lake Chad not far below. It is home to more than 2,000 people, many of whom are not sure where their next meal will come from.

Last year, erratic rainfall affected the farming season in much of Chad’s Sahel belt. The harvest was not good. Now, barely in April, many families have exhausted their food reserves. Normally, this would happen between June and September.

Thousands of people in the Lake Chad basin region rely on the lake for water. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

The situation is compounded by insecurity resulting from attacks by the militant group, Boko Haram, which has been operating across several countries in the Lake Chad Basin. The Lake region of Chad hosts 8,500 refugees from neighboring Nigeria who have fled attacks by the armed group.

In areas where basic infrastructures is almost non-existent — no paved roads, no electricity — insecurity in the past few years has seriously affected people already overwhelmed by poverty.

Joukoua Mbodou, nicknamed “the marabout” by his friends because he studied the Koran, has felt the full force of the crisis.

“I don’t have a regular job and the latest harvest was not enough. We have to buy everything with no regular incomes,” says the 59-year-old father of 12 children.

Jokoua Mbodou, nicknamed “The marabout”. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

At his side is Yakoura, his wife, in her forties. She has just prepared a porridge for the whole family: their youngest boy is 3 years old, the oldest 20 — and their first grandchild is about 1.

When resources and food are scarce, porridge is nourishing Mbodou’s whole family. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

A little further in the village, Chelou Abakar Moussa is preparing a meal. Acrid smoke is lingering. This will be the day’s only meal for her husband, their 9 children and her. She cooks fresh fish caught in the nearby lake but they are becoming more and more scarce.

Preparing the family meal. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

Seventeen-year-old Hawa, one of the couple’s daughters, is still in primary school. Education is not considered a priority when she has to help her mother. Chelou’s husband is blind and cannot provide for all the family.

Hawa, 17. She helps her mother to support the family. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

Like Chelou, many women are turning to mat making to earn a living.

It takes a week to make a mat to earn between CFA F 750 and 2,500 . Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

At Hawa Haladji Katchala’s place the pot is on the fire. Her gestures are quick as she prepares a traditional Chadian dish made from corn flour called “la boule”. Her husband is a day labourer with irregular income.

“With this kind of job you can only earn 15,000 to 20,000 CFA Francs. You have to borrow and take loans otherwise you can’t cover your needs. We now owe up to 250,000 CFA Francs to different people.”

For Alima Daouda Abdou, access to land is one of the main concerns.

Alima, her husband and their seven kids. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

“Life is a real struggle for those who don’t own a plot of land,” says Alima. “Even if you want to buy goats or set up a little trade you need money. That’s why assistance during the lean season is crucial,” adds the mother of seven children.

Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

During the lean season WFP will be able to assist 700,000 people in Chad thanks to generous contributions from USAID, ECHO, Canada, UKaid, Japan, African Development Bank and Switzerland.

Follow us on twitter @WFP West Africa & @WFP_Chad

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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