7 September 2017

Chad: From Refugee Hotspot to Promised Land, Chad's Bet At the Paris Roundtable

opinion

Chad needs commitments in its fight against poverty, strengthening resilience of its communities and ensuring long-term stability

The influx of undocumented migrants, often labeled as "the migration crisis", and the rise in violent extremism, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel are at the core of European concerns.

This is the lens through which many see the roundtable that opens in Paris on Thursday 7 September. Organized jointly by France and Chad, this high-level meeting aims, on the contrary, to spark commitment from various actors and address the root causes for these "phenomena".

By presenting a development plan with the year 2030 on the horizon, Chad, which holds a pivotal location in Africa, wants to position itself in terms of opportunities for its citizens and the refugees it is hosting.

One striking example is that over 1,300 refugee students took their A Level exams in Chad this year, 60% of them are girls, most of whom have fled the conflict in Darfur. They are given a chance to go to university alongside national students and Chad really could be their new land of opportunity.

In recent months, I have had the honor of working with the Government of Chad in crafting its National Development Program, which will be officially presented in Paris. This event is an opportunity to help a key partner step down from the podium of the three least developed countries in the world.

Chad is home to more than half-a-million people fleeing conflict in Sudan, the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and is the first refugee host country in Africa in relation to its population. Despite surrounding conflicts and an unprecedented economic crisis, aggravated by the closure of three of its borders, Chad has remained relatively stable.

It is the second country in the world[i] with the highest level of food insecurity and the number of children under 5 years old suffering from malnutrition is alarming.

A total of 4.7 million people, one third of the population, urgently need assistance. Structural challenges, chronic poverty, the consequences of climate change, coupled with gender inequality and youth unemployment, make Chad a country on the brink of collapse. Development aid remains insufficient and responses overlooked by main players in development assistance.

However, donors are not called today to the bedside of an ailing Chad but rather to engage in a real partnership. More than ever, Chad needs commitments in its fight against poverty, in strengthening the resilience of its communities and in ensuring long-term stability of this region in crisis. Displaced children who fled attacks in their remote island communities are going to school for the first time. I believe this is a sign of hope, as it is only through education and opportunities that we can fight radicalization.

From the North-West to the South-East of Chad, I have always been impressed by the solidarity demonstrated by those who are amongst the most vulnerable people on this planet.

They have shared everything they had with those who had to leave everything behind. As Abakar, a 38-year-old fisherman who shares with Nigerian refugees the only boat that allows him to bring fish to his family once said to me: "How could I let them suffer when I have the possibility to help? I will do everything I can to help."

Today, it is my hope that donors, the private sector and organizations present in Paris this week will show equal generosity to that of Abakar and stronger support to Chad's development.

[i] Global Hunger Index, 2016

Stephen Tull is United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad.

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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