Chad requires greater humanitarian and development support as it continues to host hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence on its eastern, western and southern borders as well as grappling with its own insecurity challenges, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said following a four-day visit to the country that ended on Friday.
Located in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region, Chad is home to more than 1 million forcibly displaced people, including 580,000 refugees from conflicts in neighboring Sudan, Central African Republic and Cameroon, a further 380,000 Chadians who have fled insecurity to other areas, and 100,000 former refugees who have returned to the country.
During his visit, Grandi travelled to meet some of the roughly 400,000 Sudanese refugees who have been living in camps scattered across the vast eastern region of the country since the start of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region nearly 20 years ago.
Among them was Hassan Nour Ahmat, 40, a Sudanese refugee living with a disability who has spent the last 18 years in Milé camp, close to the border with his country. The camp currently hosts more than 25,000 refugees from the Darfur region.
Ahmat, who fled his village of Amfarass riding a donkey, said residents in Milé camp had recently experienced a noticeable decline in the support they receive as levels of assistance had failed to keep pace with rising needs, with more refugees fleeing violence in Darfur in recent years.
"The aid is not like it was in years past, and when we ask questions, the answer is always the same: lack of resources," Ahmat said.
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Chad is one of the largest operations in the region for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Grandi said that in addition to more humanitarian funding, the international community should prioritize longer-term solutions to the challenges facing the country and its government.
"The purpose of my visit here is to help the very generous authorities of Chad, who kept their borders open to all these people, to mobilize resources not only to meet humanitarian needs but also to mobilize development resources in order to create new opportunities for these populations," Grandi said.
Nearly 1,000 kilometres away on Chad’s southwestern border with Cameroon, Grandi met Cameroonian refugees living in Kalambari camp, who are among more than 40,000 currently hosted by Chad after fleeing inter-communal clashes in the north of the country over scarce water supplies. The violent confrontations between herders and farmers over dwindling resources are a stark example of how the climate crisis is exacerbating fragility in the region.
"We are very grateful to our Chadian brothers and sisters. But they too have their own problems because it is difficult for everyone,” explained Hawa Kamsouloum, 37, a single mother who fled the clashes with her six children in late 2021.
“What we want is to be given the opportunity to restart our lives again here, because I don't see myself going back home any time soon," she said.
Climate change is increasing competition for water and other resources across the Sahel region, where temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Water levels in Lake Chad have decreased by as much as 95 per cent in the past 60 years, impacting communities from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria that rely on the lake and surrounding rivers for their survival.
"Chad cannot do it alone."
With little prospect of a quick resolution to the environmental and security challenges in the Sahel, the High Commissioner concluded by urging governments not to overlook the vital contribution of countries like Chad and ensure they have adequate resources to continue offering safety to people fleeing their homes.
"The generosity of local and national authorities must be matched by international donors and development organizations, who should provide the necessary resources and expertise to create opportunities for people who cannot yet return home," Grandi said.
"Chad cannot do it alone and should not do it alone. The country needs the support of the international community."