Tailoring projects to suit refugee needs in southern Chad
GORE, Chad, June 30 (UNHCR) - Two years ago, Chad experienced two separate influxes within months of each other. In the east, the first of over 200,000 Sudanese refugees were arriving from the troubled Darfur region. In the south, thousands of people were seeking refuge following a military coup in the Central African Republic.
Compared to the refugee situation in eastern Chad, less international attention has been paid to the refugees in the south, who numbered 30,000 until a further 10,000 arrived earlier this month.
The recent arrivals fled the Central African Republic in the wake of clashes between governmental forces and armed groups in early June. In Chad, they settled in Yamdodo near the border with their homeland. UNHCR has distributed relief items like plastic sheeting and jerry cans, and plans to relocate them to an existing camp in southern Chad in the near future.
The earlier groups of Central Africans who arrived in 2003 are now living in Amboko camp in Goré and Yaroungou camp in Danamadji. The Chadian government has given them small plots of land to farm on, while UNHCR and partners like African Concern have started income-generating projects to help them become more self-reliant.
"We help refugees to start activities in soap-making, bakery, embroidery or knitting, to allow them to take responsibility for themselves," explains Gildas Kimtobaye, the coordinator for African Concern in Yaroungou camp. "For example, we identified refugee tailors and put them together as an organised group. Besides making clothes, they also train other refugees who wish to take up this occupation."
Yatéré, a refugee in Amboko camp, says, "With wool, I make clothes for babies, then I sell them at the market. The money I earn allows me to buy meat or vegetables to feed my family."
The refugees have also been tasked with making school uniforms for refugee students. UNHCR provides the fabrics and pays the refugees on piece work. We have made 267 uniforms for refugee students, which has enabled us to improve our everyday life," says Alladoum, a refugee leader in Yaroungou camp.
Like Yatéré and Alladoum, other Central African refugees in Chad have also started activities to improve their standard of living. As farming season approaches, they receive agricultural tools and seeds, as well as training in small-scale farming by African Concern.
"The refugees supplied us with tomatoes, carrots and salad last year, thanks to the vegetable and fruit farming on their plots," said Dang Batinda, Secretary of Goré prefecture.
Others have profitably cultivated sorghum, groundnut and corn. Jean and his family have been able to sell 40 sacks of peanuts. Almost 500 other refugee families have sold the fruits of their labour in markets in Maro, Danamadji and Goré. This has enabled them to supplement their diet with meat, fish and spices, and to buy new clothes for themselves instead of relying solely on assistance from humanitarian agencies.
In addition to these benefits, the income-generating activities also allow the refugees to focus on constructive and positive projects. They participate actively in the socio-economic life of their host communities and prepare themselves for repatriation should they ever decide to return home.
By Djerassem Mbaïorem in Goré, Chad