The world must not forget Chad’s refugees, UN agencies warn

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Refugees who have been finding shelter in Chad for the past ten years or more continue to require food assistance and their food security situation remains precarious, a joint assessment by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has found.

Chad’s camps host nearly 400,000 refugees: some 310,000 people from Sudan’s Darfur region in the east, and another 70,000 from the Central African Republic (CAR) in the south. The CAR refugees have been coming in waves since 2002; the Sudanese have been displaced for more than a decade. For the past few years, the Lake Chad region has separately hosted some 5,000 Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram’s violence. More than 100,000 internally displaced people live at makeshift sites. Some 5,000 urban refugees are living in the capital, and receive no assistance.

About 43% of refugee households in the camps are food insecure. The global chronic malnutrition rate exceeds the critical threshold of 40%, and the majority of children under five suffer from anaemia, the report reveals.

«Lack of resources has forced us to reduce food rations for refugees to less than half – although biometric registration, and careful targeting according to vulnerability and needs, have somewhat lessened the impact of the cuts. And we are exploring with our colleagues at UNHCR ways to link food and non-food assistance to longer-term resilience projects that would benefit both refugees and local communities,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Chad Country Director.

WFP is also reviewing the option of introducing cash assistance, which would help diversify refugees’ meals and stimulate local markets. But in the short term, the joint assessment highlights the need for additional resources to restore the basic food basket that will ensure the refugees’ physical wellbeing and prevent their nutritional situation form deteriorating further. There is also a need to invest in training, small trade, and micro-finance schemes or farming projects. Finally, voluntary returns should be considered when the situation in the refugees’ country of origin allows.

“We must retain the protection character of our refugee operation and the social contract between UNHCR and the Government,” said UNHCR Representative in Chad Jose Antonio Canhandula. “But we should also move on from offering assistance to investing in human capacities, and integrate the refugee programme into a broader development programme. Our international protection mandate cannot be fully achieved without ensuring food security for refugees and for their host communities,” Canhandula added.

Mridha Shihab Mahmud

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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