Chad: Floods, Locusts Add to Humanitarian Challenges

Nairobi — The number of flood-affected people in Chad has risen to 700,000, up from 445,000 in September, according to humanitarian agencies, which also report the loss or damage of 255,720 hectares of cropland, 94,211 houses and 1,015 schools. Some 70,000 people have been displaced by the flooding, one of several challenges to the country's humanitarian situation.

The areas worst affected by the floods include the regions of Moyen Chari, Tanjile, the two Logones, the two Mayo Kebbis and Salamat, according to a 15 October update by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). At least 16 of the country's 22 regions have been affected, with 20 deaths recorded.

As of 13 October, about 18,800 displaced people from Walia District were seeking refuge at two sites on the outskirts of N'djamena, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Assistance needed

"These are the worst floods that N'djamena has seen since 1962. About 30,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in parts of the city flooded by the Logone and Chari rivers. Thankfully, it looks like the water levels are slowly going back down, but people will need help to rebuild their lives and repair their houses, schools, hygiene facilities and wells," Pierre Péron, a public information officer at the OCHA office in N'djamena, told IRIN.

The current flooding, which started in August, has damaged infrastructure, crops and homes, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

"Over the last two months, the rains have continued steadily while the authorities and humanitarian agencies provided emergency relief to the most affected," said IFRC's 21 October emergency appeal to help 30,800 people in Mayo Kebbi Est and N'djamena. The organization is requesting 775,716 Swiss francs (US$ 832,265) to cover assistance over a six-month period, with the main needs including emergency health services, clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities, as well as basic household items and protection.

A UN Central Emergency Response Fund grant has also just been approved for $3 million to respond to flooding in the south, according to OCHA's Peron.

As of 15 October, over three million had been affected by flooding in the West and Central Africa region, according to a situation report by the OCHA.

Food insecurity

The flooding in Chad follows a period of high food insecurity in Chad's Sahelian belt. In Bahr-el-Ghazal, Guéra, Kanem, Ouaddai and Sila regions, food insecurity rates increased from 45 percent in December 2011 to 48 percent in June 2012, according to the UN World Food Programme's October global food security update.

The number of children being newly admitted for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, in Chad's Sahelian region has been high compared to previous years, according to UNICEF. In 2010, some 59,260 new admissions were recorded; in 2011 that number was 69,936, and from January to August 2012 it was 98,664.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to admit new patients to its emergency feeding programme in eastern Chad, according to an update. At present, more than 1,000 children are being treated in MSF's emergency feeding programme in the eastern Biltine District.

"Since April, more than 500 severely malnourished children requiring intensive care have been admitted to MSF's nutrition ward in Biltine District hospital. The team hopes the number of admissions will decrease as the harvest comes in and the annual 'hunger season' comes to an end," the update states.

MSF will continue its emergency nutrition programme there until early December.

Locusts

Chad is also grappling with the growing threat of desert locusts.

"Immature swarms are currently forming in northeast Chad [adjacent to Darfur, Sudan] near Fada and further west," Keith Cressman, the senior locust forecasting officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IRIN. "So far, damage has been reported to pastures and subsistence crops, both important to livelihoods of herders and farmers, respectively."

"The desert locust threat should continue to be monitored in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania. A potential threat to crops in 2013 exists should locust numbers multiply," he added.

On 23 October, FAO issued a new locust warning for northwest Africa alerting Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco to prepare for the likely arrival of locust swarms from the Sahel.

"Any locust infestations that can be found and treated now will decrease the scale of migration from the Sahel to northwest Africa and also reduce the threat to crops in the Sahel that are about to be harvested," said Cressman.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. ]

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