Background Briefing

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Humanitarian Consequences in Chad of Cross-Border Violence

Tens of thousands displaced south of Adré

The primary and most immediate consequence of the continuing insecurity on the Chadian side of the border has been the displacement of Chadian civilians. The Chadian government’s stance is that displaced persons should be absorbed and supported by neighboring villages until they can return to their homes.55 Three significant concentrations of internally displaced persons can be found in the area south of Adré: in Goungour (between Adré and Adé), Borota (south of Goungour), and Koloy (southeast of Adé). Human Rights Watch interviewed both Dajo and Masalit internally displaced persons in all three of these areas. 

One humanitarian agency operating in eastern Chad estimates the total number of internally displaced persons in the area south of Adré to be 30,000 that includes 10,000 who have taken refuge in Goungour. Internally displaced persons in Goungour complained of precarious food supplies and serious problems accessing clean water. 

In Borota, internally displaced persons are clustered in three areas: Borota center, Koule and Kiranga. According to a humanitarian aid agency, 8,000 Displaced persons currently live in the greater Borota area, where the total population is 47,000. Local registration lists examined by Human Rights Watch showed that the population of Borota center has increased by 50 percent since the beginning of December, with 3,400 displaced persons added to the pre-conflict population of 6,850.  Internally displaced persons in Borota complained of lack of food, water and medical assistance.  Many complained of cold during the night because of a shortage of blankets, and as a result some are suffering from respiratory ailments. 

Koloy, with a pre-conflict population of 1,904, has become a place of refuge for 10,000 to 12,000 internally displaced persons, most of them Dajo, from twenty-six villages along the border. The vast majority of the displaced arrived in 2005 in three distinct waves: one in June, another in September, and a third in December, the last being by far the largest.  Koloy was thought to be safe from attack and a potential source of humanitarian aid.56

The last harvest in eastern Chad was by all accounts outstanding, 50 percent greater than in the previous three years (although poor results have been reported in some areas).  Even so, internally displaced persons can eat only what food they can carry, either by themselves or with the help of draught animals.  Many individuals interviewed reported having been  attacked when they returned to their villages to recover food they had stored in their homes or left in their fields and gardens.  After spending twenty days in Koloy with her three children and with food supplies running low, a fifty-year-old Dajo woman recounted how she returned to her village on the border near Koumou on January 19, 2006, to recover food:

I wanted to collect tomatoes from my garden, and peppers, and I was working to collect the vegetables when I saw five men, all wearing army uniforms and turbans, with their faces covered.  They said, “Leave this place.  Leave those vegetables.  You came from far away; they’re not your vegetables.”  I said, “I’m hungry; I came to get them.”  They beat me with bricks.  I ran away and hid in a mango tree but they followed me and beat me again.  Then they let their horses and camels eat my vegetables.57 

Food security could become an issue if the internally displaced continue to be denied access to food stored in their villages; in any event, food is likely to become a problem for them during the usual “hunger gap” in advance of the next harvest, in August 2006.  The most immediate concern, however, is water—only one well in Borota was working, and some villagers who resorted to drinking surface water suffered from bloody diarrhea.  When Human Rights Watch visited, the only well in Koloy was almost completely dry, with only small amounts of muddy water able to be extracted.  People who had drawn surface water from the dry riverbed also were suffering from diarrhea.

Impact of insecurity on humanitarian assistance

Most local and international nongovernmental organizations suspended their activities between Adré and Modoyna following the December 18, 2005, attack on Adré.  Due to insecurity, there has been no monitoring of the Chad-Sudan border by staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since October, though a monitoring trip was reportedly planned for February 2006.58

Insecurity is also taking root along the border north of Adré, until recently a relatively safe area for humanitarian agencies (this area is north of the region surveyed by Human Rights Watch).  Several humanitarian vehicles were stolen at gunpoint in January 2006.  On January 20, the prefect of Dar Tama department, a UNHCR security liaison officer with whom he was meeting, and two accompanying Chadian military officers were briefly kidnapped in Guéréda by several gunmen.59 Aid officials responded by reducing their staff in the area by 20 percent : ninety people from the U.N. and other aid agencies were evacuated from Guéréda and another eighty from nearby Iriba.60

In the event of a major military engagement between Chadian military forces and any of the rebel groups arrayed against it, international humanitarian operations in eastern Chad could be severely hampered, resulting in a potentially massive disruption to the flow of aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees and Chadian civilians in the region. 

[55] Nevertheless, an internally displaced persons committee comprised of Chadian officials, UNHCR, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), OXFAM and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has been set up in Abéché to monitor the status of displaced persons and take action as needed.

[56] Several humanitarian organizations distributed shelter material, food and seeds to Koloy in 2005. Human Rights Watch interviews, Chad, January 25 and February 3, 2006.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, January 28, 2006.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, January 31, 2006.

[59]  “CHAD: UN scales back in east after local officals”, IRIN January 23, 2006, [online] kidnapped; Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, January 23, 2006.

[60] “CHAD: With insecurity mounting in the east, are Deby's days numbered?”, IRIN, February 10, 2006, [online]

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