Chad conflict still threatens humanitarian operations

Published on 21 April 2006

WFP warns that any continuation or escalation in the current conflict in Chad could have serious implications for the humanitarian effort and leave thousands of people short of food in both eastern Chad and across the border in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.

WFP warned today that any continuation or escalation in the current conflict in Chad could have serious implications for the humanitarian effort and leave thousands of people short of food in both eastern Chad and across the border in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.

The longer the instability continues, the more people will need assistance and yet that same assistance will be even more difficult to provide.

Stefano Porretti, WFP Chad Country Director

Despite the recent clashes around the country between government and rebel forces and the consequent relocation of non-essential UN and NGO staff, WFP remains operational in Chad and is completing April food distributions in camps in the east of the country, home to about 210,000 refugees from Darfur.

However, uncertain security threatens to make an already highly complex logistical operation even more difficult.

Worst fears

“Our operation in eastern Chad is on a knife-edge even at the best of times,” said Stefano Porretti, WFP Chad Country Director.

“We have warned for some time that any deterioration in the situation could have dire consequences for those we are assisting and now some of our worst fears might be realised.”

The months of April and May are absolutely critical to the success of the operation as WFP battles to pre-position enough food for six months in each of the 12 refugee camps in the east before the annual rains make road transport impossible.

Serious consequences

If truck convoys through Libya and Cameroon remain free to move, WFP is on target to get the food in place. However, if insecurity forces delays, there will be serious consequences for deliveries.

Shortages during the rainy season can only be made up by expensive air-drops, something WFP is keen to avoid.

The closure of the border between Chad and Sudan following the recent rebel assault on the capital could also have a serious impact on supplies to WFP operations in West Darfur, where WFP is currently feeding a total of 500,000 people.

Much of the food for the needy in West Darfur currently arrives from Libya via Chad, but the border closure will render this route unusable.

Displacement

WFP is also concerned that further violence in the east will lead to the displacement of many more Chadians within their country.

An estimated 50,000 people have been forced from their homes since the first attacks in December last year.

Most Chadians have sought refuge with family and friendly neighbours in nearby settlements where their prime concern is security.

Hunger season

As the annual ‘hunger season’ begins to bite in the weeks and months ahead, it is certain that many of the displaced, as well as the communities hosting them, will run out of food and require emergency assistance.

WFP is creating a contingency stock for these people, but if the security situation deteriorates and Chadians are displaced in even greater numbers, it will increase the already severe pressure on both the financial resources available to meet their needs and on WFP’s ability to deliver food to them.

“We are all working in a very uncertain environment. The longer the instability continues, the more people will need assistance and yet that same assistance will be even more difficult to provide. The first people to suffer will be those who need help most,” said Porretti.