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Chad: Deputy Humanitarian Chief shares poignant testimonies of the displaced people she met and their struggle for survival

19 Mar 2018

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Deputy Humanitarian Chief Ursula Mueller travelled to CAR, Cameroon and Chad from 18 to 27 February 2018 to see, first-hand, the devastating humanitarian consequences of the ongoing violence affecting CAR and the Lake Chad Basin. Throughout her visit, she met with communities affected by the conflict, she spoke to the families who fled the violence in search for safety, and those who welcomed them in their homes.

During her two-day visit to the Lac region, Ms. Mueller witnessed the humanitarian consequences of the Lake Chad Basin crisis. Violent conflict continues to fuel large-scale human suffering in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring parts of Cameroon, Chad and Niger around the Lake Chad region.

Ahead of the French Humanitarian Conference on 22-23 March, where Ms. Mueller will address critical issues ranging from strategies to bridge the humanitarian-development divide to funding for humanitarian action, she shared with us the poignant testimonies she heard while in Chad. “Chad will be high on my agenda, and I will bring the voices of the people that I talked to in the Lac region to the attention of the international community to step up financing,” said Ms. Mueller.

Despite being one of Chad’s poorest regions, the Lac region is hosting a combined population of over 137,000 people, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees from Niger and Nigeria, and returnees.

“Chad will be high on my agenda, and I will bring the voices of the people that I talked to in the Lac region to the attention of the international community to step up financing,” said Ms. Mueller.

“We need water, food, schools”


 

At the Yakoua displacement site, IDPs lauded the generosity of the host community. A group of women who arrived in Yakoua in 2015 told Ms. Mueller: “We suffered a lot before coming here. When we first arrived, people from the villages used to give us food, clothes, shoes, but now there are too many of us.”

The population influx has overstretched already limited basic health care, education and water facilities within the host communities. "We don't have hospitals or schools. We need people to help us. We also need water," a displaced person at the Yakoua displacement site told Ms. Mueller. “Would you please pass my message to your delegation and share it with the world? We desperately need education, secondary education, higher-level education".

“Humanitarians are helping us survive”

Each month, the World Food Programme provides cash transfers of US$11.25 per person to 6,500 refugees and 60,000 displaced Chadians in the Lac region. Children aged 6-23 months also receive specialized nutritious food to keep malnutrition at bay.

Across the region, WFP reaches 160,000 IDPs and refugees through cash-based transfers and in-kind assistance. Cash helps displaced people access food in local markets, which would otherwise be beyond their financial reach. This modality is based on market analysis and seasonal food availability, and it considers people’s preferences.

"Since we came here, humanitarians are helping us so much", a man told Ms. Mueller. "With the money we are receiving, we buy food and can go to the hospital when someone is sick".

Host communities are a lifeline for those who arrived with nothing

In Brim village, also in Lac region, Ms. Mueller met displaced women working with the host community in a gardening project, which is providing them with a livelihood and enhancing community cohesion. The project is run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through its national implementing partner, NGO CHORA. Members receive seeds, gardening equipment and training.

In Brim, Ms. Mueller met Salmata, a 25-year-old mother of five. She fled her Lake Chad island home after an attack, during which her house was burned down and many people from her village were killed. Today, she is rebuilding her life thanks to the generosity of the host community and the chance to farm.

Brim hosts 750 people, including 125 displaced households (595 people) who arrived there in 2015, most of them fleeing Boko Haram attacks on their islands. The host community was their first lifeline, welcoming them and offering them shelter.

Noting the generosity of the host communities, Ms. Mueller said: “I was moved by the solidarity of host communities here, who share the little they have with those who have lost everything. It is essential to strengthen the livelihoods of these communities."

“These men, women and children need durable solutions”

Ms. Mueller listened to the poignant testimonies of many displaced people who have been forced to flee multiple times and lost everything. Recurrent displacement and prevalent insecurity have disrupted predominantly farming- and fishing-related livelihoods, forcing displaced people to rely on humanitarian assistance.

“Because of Boko Haram, we had to leave our homes. If we don't get any help here, we might have to go back, even though they are killing us. Even if we have nothing, a fishing net would allow us to go fish in the lake,” said Abdu Abakar, a displaced fisherman. “If we had enough cash, we could buy boats and fishing nets. In our culture, we used to go fishing. We are grateful for humanitarian aid, but it isn’t enough.”

The need for livelihood opportunities and longer-term solutions resonated with many of the IDPs who spoke with Ms. Mueller.

"It is unacceptable that these men, these women and these children who lost everything continue to live in fear and uncertainty. They need durable solutions. They need support to rebuild a dignified and independent life.”

The Lac region is among 12 regions across Chad that have declared a nutritional emergency, with severe acute malnutrition rates reaching 3.4 per cent in 2017 compared with 2.1 per cent in 2016. Some 4.4 million people across Chad (one third of the population) urgently need humanitarian assistance. "One person out of three needs humanitarian assistance in Chad. Four million people are not able to meet their basic food needs, and over 200,000 children under the age of five risk dying from severe acute malnutrition in 2018,” said Ms. Mueller.

Underlying Chad’s humanitarian crises are structural vulnerabilities linked to the country's weak development and insecurity in neighbouring countries. Humanitarian response alone cannot address the root causes of these perennial crises.

In 2017, the Chad Humanitarian Response Plan was less than 45 per cent funded. "Because of chronic underfunding, we are only able to address the tip of the iceberg,” noted Ms. Mueller. Stronger donor support is also required for the Lac region, where needs in 2017 were only 33.4 per cent funded. The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$544 million to address the most urgent needs of 1.9 million people.