Needs Assessment Points to Growing Needs Among Refugees and Residents in Eastern Chad

An overview of the situation among the 135,000 refugees in Eastern Chad

Action Against Hunger has just carried out a needs assessment in eastern Chad, among 135,000 refugees from the neighbouring Darfur Province in Sudan. Their situation, as well as that of an estimated 1.2 million host population, is precarious and could sharply deteriorate with tragic consequences during the hunger gap, in spite of the aid community's ongoing efforts.

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

  • The situation is characterised by great fluidity and unknowns, as well by considerable logistical difficulties that amplify the magnitude of the situation. As of January 21st, over 135,000 refugees had been officially identified, but this figure covers a wide range of people, scattered over a vast area, who are vulnerable to very different risks and threats.
  • By far and large, protection is currently the highest priority in eastern Chad. This applies to refugees who have not relocated to camps, but also to those who have already, and also to residents.
  • Water and sanitation issues are of the highest concern as well, although they are not specific to the crisis. It is clear that any refugee influx (including cattle) is bound to result in further pressure on already scarce water resources in a very fragile and complex ecological system. Scarcity of water is proving already a strong limiting factor to the identification of suitable refugee camps, and is likely to lead to the set up of 7 to 9 camps, i.e. twice more than were originally projected.
  • Considering that about a third of the resident population are migrants, all activities related to water should be first and foremost guided by the Do No Harm principle.
  • Food security is of concern. Although harvests were unusually good this year in Chad, they remained below needs, in particular for the North and East. Transport capacity between the south and other areas are insufficient. In any case, the area cannot cope with a large influx of refugees. As a result, prices in Sorghum have already to climb atypically high. This should result in access issues in the medium term, with the hunger gap set to start in May.
  • Tensions between residents and refugees are on the increase, and are bound to overlap with traditional issues between pastoralists and agriculturalists during the migration season (starting at the end of the dry cold season in January). All consulted actors have stressed that particular attention should be paid to residents and cattle in particular, if only for conflict mitigation purposes, as the prospects for a rapid resettlement of refugees in Darfur are distant at best.

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