• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR unites refugees and host communities in Chad

News Stories, 9 March 2010

© UNHCR/A.Rehrl
Women work with sewing machines in the vocational training centre in Beureh village, southern Chad.

GORE, Chad, March 9 (UNHCR) Two years ago, UNHCR closed health centres in two refugee camps in the south of Chad and opened a new one in a local village between the camps. It could serve as a symbol of all the refugee agency's policies in the area: UNHCR understood that both fairness and success required showing concern for refugees and their hosts in exile.

The UNHCR office in the town of Gore used to initiate small-scale projects, like drilling wells that benefitted the local population, on an ad-hoc basis to reduce potential resentment of the refugees. But since 2008, UNHCR has systematically promoted initiatives to help integrate refugees into the local community.

"If we engage refugees and host communities in sharing the assistance we provide, we actually can achieve a lot for local villages, who usually are being left behind," said Janet Lim, UNHCR's assistant high commissioner for operations, who visited Gore last month. "After all, host communities are living side-by-side with refugees and sharing their resources it's only fair for UNHCR to engage in some development activities and not lose sight of their needs."

At the beginning of this year, there were some 68,000 refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) in the south and south-east of Chad. They have been fleeing violence and banditry in northern CAR since 2003 and there is little prospect of an early return home. Making them a self-sufficient part of the community is the best solution.

"The medical centre in Beureuh that replaced clinics in the camps of Amboko and Gondje is equally open for the refugees and the local population; it's run by the [Chad] ministry of health, supported by a mixed committee composed of both populations," said Monica Sandri, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Gore.

"From this year, the office will also increase assistance to the hospital in Gore, which covers more than 30,000 local people in the area," she added.

It's a similar story in education. Elementary schools in all the camps accept both refugees and local children, with the management increasingly handled by Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) drawn from refugees and the local population. In addition, UNHCR and its partners built a junior high school in Beureuh that is run by the ministry of education with support of a PTA of refugees and local population.

They also constructed a vocational training centre in Beureuh that takes 250 students from both groups. After graduating, the students are encouraged to form mixed groups and start small businesses.

UNHCR has achieved this progress by developing close relationships with local authorities and refugee leaders, elected by the whole population. Jointly, they all help determine the medium and long-term strategies for UNHCR's activities in the area.

"The strategy of the office to transform the emergency mode to development-oriented assistance and to promote the socio-economic integration of refugees is clearly communicated to the refugee leaders and, through reinforced awareness campaigns, in the camps," Sandri said.

The key activity absorbing the largest portion of UNHCR's local budget goes for improving the productivity in agriculture, livestock and other income-generation work. It is essential to demonstrating that the presence of refugees is not an economic threat but a potential benefit to everyone in the community.

"There are mixed groups of small producers, which are spontaneously organized by refugees and local population. UNHCR actively promotes their joint activities," Sandri said. "We also work with the local village chiefs to gain the refugees access to farming lands, and prioritize assistance to benefit those living in the villages that collaborate."

This concerted effort to promote cooperation between the refugees and the local population is demonstrated on key celebratory days such as World Refugee Day, which are staged in local communities instead of refugee camps. Not only are the activities jointly planned and implemented by Chadian authorities and refugee leaders, there are public awards during the celebration to honour the activities in which refugees and local citizens collaborated.

"In Chad we say that if a stranger comes tired and knocks at your door, you have to feed him and host him", said Clement Nangdoh, village chief of Beureh. "But actually we profited so much from the refugees' presence. Now we have a clinic, a school and a professional training centre, while before they arrived we had absolutely nothing."

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

Chad: A Nigerian Child AlonePlay video

Chad: A Nigerian Child Alone

Thousands of refugees have fled militant attacks in Nigeria and sought safety in Chad. They include at least 100 children who have been provided shelter by other families.
Chad: Refugees from NigeriaPlay video

Chad: Refugees from Nigeria

In recent weeks, thousands have been forced to flee northern Nigeria after militants attacked their villages, crossing Lake Chad in packed boats and seeking safety at the Dar-es-Salam refugee site in Chad.
The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and ResiliencePlay video

The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and Resilience

As the conflict drags on in CAR, the UN refugee agency and its partners appeal for more support to help over 425,000 refugees in four neighbouring countries.