Chad: A flight of hope

8 July, 2014
3 July 2014, Moundou, Chad: The first of two OCHA-organized aid flights arrives in southern Chad carrying humanitarian supplies for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic. Credit: OCHA/Philippe Kropf
3 July 2014, Moundou, Chad: The first of two OCHA-organized aid flights arrives in southern Chad carrying humanitarian supplies for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic. Credit: OCHA/Philippe Kropf

The rain hitting the tarmac of Moundou airport is relentless. It is a reminder for those huddled under the tin roof of the modest terminal of the importance of the incoming humanitarian flight.

More than 105,000 people have arrived in Chad in recent months, fleeing the violence that has gripped the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR). Over 55,000 people are still sheltered in transit sites and temporary camps in the south of Chad.

They are in crucial need of the basics, including improved emergency shelter to replace the humble tents that have been destroyed by the driving rain of the wet season.

36 tons of aid

It is noon. The rain has stopped and the runway has dried. The tower tries to contact the aircraft. The flight is taking a complex route from its origin in the United Arab Emirates, via Yemen and Sudan for refueling.

It is early afternoon, and finally the hum of the plane’s four massive engines is audible. The handling crew in their yellow vests line up in while the aircraft, a Russian built Ilyushin with a Ukranian crew, taxis and parks. The rear door opens and the pilot lowers a ladder to receive the airport manager.

The plane – the first of two - is carrying about 18 tons of aid. In all, 36 tons of supplies worth more than US$160,000 will arrive here. The two flights will deliver 4,900 tarpaulins, 3,000 blankets and 280 squatting plates for latrines. Five 1,000 litre water bladders and three water purification units will provide clean water for thousands of people living in camps in the south of Chad.

More arrivals from CAR expected shortly

The flight was organized by OCHA and the UN Humanitarian Response Depot. The cargo and transport costs were paid for by the Norwegian Government. The International Organization for Migration, the UN Children’s Fund and Oxfam Intermón will distribute the supplies.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Chad, Thomas Gurtner, accompanied by the Governor of Logone Occidental region, Mockhtar Wawa Dahab, and representatives from UN Agencies walks to the plane to receive the first of the cargo.

"I would like to thank all humanitarian partners that have helped to fly these tons of humanitarian aid to Moundou,” says Mr Gurtner to a group of gathered Chadian journalists. “We will be able to assist thousands of people who were forced to flee their homes in CAR and have found safety in Chad."

"This help is extremely important to improve the situation of the Chadian evacuees and refugees from CAR," says the Governor. "Thousands of people are in need and we are expecting more." An estimated 5,000 Chadians are expected to be repatriated from neighbouring Cameroon in the coming weeks.

Inside the plane dozens of pallets of white, shrink wrapped sacks wait to be unloaded. Bags are dropped from the door of the plane onto the bed of the truck one by one. Whole pallets are unloaded by forklift. They will be driven to a World Food Programme warehouse in town before being picked up and distributed.

Tarps to cover 164 soccer fields

This is the first aid flight of its size to land in southern Chad. The organizational and administrative challenges involved in organizing it were worth it. Trucking aid in from the capital N’djamena can take several days. The flight has put these supplies on the doorstep of the people who urgently need them. It has achieved this quickly and massively.

There are enough tarpaulins to cover 164 soccer fields – enough to shelter thousands of families.