Humanitarian Consequences of the Violence in Eastern Chad

With the number of internally displaced persons at an all-time high in eastern Chad and with many having left their villages with few or no possessions, leaving them dependent on relief, Chad’s internal crisis threatens to trigger a serious humanitarian crisis.

Some towns in eastern Chad have increased ten-fold in size due to the huge influxes of displaced rural villagers due to massive internal displacement, humanitarian aid workers were forced to cut daily water rations for Sudanese refugees living in camps in southeastern Chad to help displaced persons fleeing to safe areas near the camps.209 UN agencies have warned of a growing crisis in the region and estimated the number of internally displaced people, together with refugees from Sudan, to be 323,635. Most lack access to basic health services. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the situation could quickly deteriorate further, with the increasing number of people in need overstretching the capacity of health services and aid agencies, and affecting supply chains.210

Many displaced persons said they would plant crops at the beginning of the next planting season in June 2007, but many others said they would wait until government deployed security forces to control the militias, conditions that could make for serious food security issues as food stocks dwindle. The crop yield from the 2006 planting, was generally considered to be adequate though not outstanding, but the coincidence of extensive acts of violence with the harvest season meant that much of the year’s crop has been lost.

When Chadian rebels attacked Abéché on November 25, 2006, UN warehouses were looted and $1.3 million worth of relief items were taken. The World Food Program (WFP) lost 483 metric tons of food when one of its warehouses was looted in Abéché, and distributions to displaced persons around Dogdoré and Adé were put on hold due to insecurity.211 Subsequently, WFP was forced to suspend all non-emergency activities in parts of eastern Chad, putting a temporary stop to school feeding for children and food-for-work programs that served 56,000 Chadians.212 In response to insecurity, including the fall of Abéché and the December 4 takeover of Guéréda, the UNHCR pulled its staff out of northeastern Chad, where 110,000 refugees live in six camps.

In the northern camps, contingency plans were put in place to delegate responsibilities for running the camps to partner NGO staff and designated refugees.213 Responsibilities related to water and sanitation, food distribution and health were delegated to refugee committees, as well as the work of maintaining basic services in the camps. These measures may stave off the worst-case scenario of starvation and disease outbreak. However, it is unfortunately the fact that refugee committees can rarely act as deterrents to violence the way international humanitarian staff can.214 The reduction in humanitarian health assistance has left displaced populations facing a potential health crisis.215

209 “Darfur spillover threatens water supplies in Chad,” Sapa-AFP, November 16, 2006 (accessed December 26, 2006).

210 “Chad: Worry mounts over security of displaced, refugees,” IRIN, December 11, 2006 (accessed December 26, 2006).

211 “Chad: UN evacuations continue as fighting hits Guéréda,” IRIN, December 4, 2006, (accessed December 26, 2006).

212 “WFP suspends food aid for 56,000 in eastern Chad amid growing violence,” WFP press release, December 5, 2006, (accessed December 26, 2006).

213 “Chad: Violence threatens fragile UN relief life-line for 110,000 refugees from Darfur,” UN News Service, December 5, 2006, (accessed December 26, 2006).

214 Ibid.

215 “In Chad, refugees and residents face health and security crisis,” World Health Organization, December 8, 2006, (accessed December 26, 2006).