Speaking from Ndjamena, Pierre Honnorat, director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Chad, said that as the country moves into the lean season in-between harvests, food assistance could grind to a complete halt.
“Chad is surrounded by countries with crises and hosting some 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Niger, Cameroon and Central African Republic. It’s one of the biggest caseloads in Africa. And the number kept rising with the recent conflict in the communities in Sudan,” Mr. Honnorat told reporters in Geneva.
An additional 300,000 people in need of aid are internally displaced Chadians.
Complex crisis, chronic underfunding
WFP said that after fleeing conflict and violence, refugees, internally displaced people and their host communities face growing food insecurity and malnutrition, high food prices and the destructive effects of climate change. In the second half of 2022, the country saw the most devastating floods in 30 years.
Mr. Honnorat flagged that last year, some 90 per cent of refugees in Chad did not receive adequate food assistance and rations had to be cut in half.
He warned that “2023 is another very difficult year, whereby we have absolutely no funding from May onwards for the refugees and the displaced people.”
Food assistance coming to a halt
WFP has already reduced its support in April and will only be able to serve just over 270,000 refugees this month.
To avoid food assistance coming to a complete halt and to “put food on the table of all crisis-affected populations” in Chad, WFP urgently needs additional funding of $142.7 million for the coming six months.
Hunger compounding vulnerabilities
Mr. Honnorat called on donors to help the Government of Chad “in their efforts to host so many refugees with so many crises at the same time”, while emphasizing the upcoming “very difficult” lean season.
WFP projects that nearly 1.9 million people will be in severe food insecurity from June to August 2023, while more than 1.3 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition.
According to the UN agency, other disastrous impacts of the crisis could include a rise in child labour, under-aged marriage and recruitment into armed groups.
Echoing the call for urgent action, Matthew Saltmarsh from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, also appealed to the international community to help tackle the crisis.
“For our part of the appeal, we’re looking to raise $172.5 million to provide protection and relief assistance to the one million forcibly displaced people and their hosts”, he said, adding that UNHCR’s appeal was, for now, only 15 per cent funded.
Speaking about longer-term solutions to the crisis, including development interventions, Mr. Honnorat highlighted a new project which WFP was running together with UNHCR and the Chadian agriculture ministry, to promote empowerment and self-reliance among the displaced by enabling them to become farmers and live off the land.
“We have just rehabilitated 1,600 hectares of land, which have already produced 2,900 tonnes of food”, he said, stressing that the return on investment of the operation is “fantastic” and that most importantly, 16 villages now no longer require assistance.
Mr. Honnorat went on to underscore that in his 33 years at WFP, he had rarely seen development projects as “solid” as in Chad and praised the efforts of the Government in favour of the refugees, including ongoing work on a new asylum law, which should be finalized soon.