Surrounded by countries torn by armed conflict, Chad has become host to more than 344,000 refugees, most from Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) and, more recently, Nigeria. The volume of refugees has become a massive burden for Chad, which is one of the poorest countries on the planet. Further, hope is dwindling for many that they will ever return home, since most of these refugees have been in Chad for over a decade. WFP and its partners are finding solutions to make sure that assistance reaches the needs of the most vulnerable of these refugees to improve their food security and livelihood.
FARCHANA - It has been more than 11 years since Hawaya Yaya Ismail arrived with her husband and two young daughters at the Farchana refugee camp in eastern Chad. They were part of a wave of hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing violence in Darfur. Since then, the family has grown a lot, with six children born in the camp - born as refugees.
WFP food assistance
Living away from home is a daily struggle. Only a few hours after receiving her monthly food assistance ration, 43 year-old Hawaya is already serving a bowl of lentils, cooked with oil and salt just received from the WFP distribution center. "They will be happy, for a while" she says, reminding her children and a few young neighbours who invited themselves to the meal, to wash their hands before sitting in a circle. They eat in silence, the older children helping to feed the younger ones.
The rations she receives are not enough, says Hawaya. "This food will only last 5 or 6 days, not a full month," she states as she removes dust from the grains of sorghum. She must set aside one-third of the grain to serve as payment to another refugee, the price of using his mill to grind her sorghum grain into flour.
Funding shortfalls forced WFP in 2013 to begin reducing the level of food assistance distributed in the refugee camps scattered along Chad's border with Sudan. Currently, each refugee receives only about 39 percent of the generally recommended minimum daily intake of 2,100 calories.
To try to find sustainable solutions to the funding and food shortfalls, WFP is conducting a joint programme with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) looking at livelihood activities that could help to improve refugee self-reliance.
"We are working with our partners to implement durable solutions for the protracted refugee situations. It will help to restore the independence and dignity of the most vulnerable so families like Hawaya's do not end up struggling every month," said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Country Director in Chad.
Other measures designed to stretch available aid money and economize on refugee assistance in Chad include a biometric registration exercise led by UNHCR that recalculated the number of refugees in the country, reducing the total to just over 382,000 as of the end of November 2015 from a previous level of 420,000.
That revision also led to a 29 percent cut to calculations of the monthly food needs for refugees.
Still, the population of the Farchana refugee camp is growing annually as the number of births outpaces the number of deaths. More than 26,000 people reside in the camp, which appears increasingly like a community, with residents living in brick houses and shopping in a market that sprang up in the camp.
As well, the adjacent Farchana village has itself become a small town over the last decade, drawing farmers and traders from as far as 35 kilometers away to arrive on the back of donkeys to sell their meat, millet, onions, watermelon and other food.
Impacting the local economy
Those markets mean some refugees can use WFP vouchers to shop for themselves for locally produced food, said McGroarty. Such measures also provide a boost to the local economy.
"The purchase of food on local markets, the use of vouchers and cash-based transfers can help address the challenges to bring food to remote parts of the country and to contribute to durable solutions for the refugee population of Chad," she said