Chad: Ten Things to Know About the Neglected Emergency in Chad

One of the world's poorest countries has been hit by the world's largest displacement crisis. In eastern Chad, locals are sharing what little they have with the largest surge of refugees ever to cross there.

Here are 10 things you should know about a humanitarian emergency that few people are talking about.

1. Almost 700,000 people have crossed into eastern Chad in 10 months

People have fled devastating violence in Sudan's West Darfur to reach Chad. These are survivors of mass targeted attacks that have shattered Darfur since the beginning of the Sudan war in April 2023. Among them are over 540,000 Sudanese refugees and 130,000 Chadian returnees, meaning people who have spent most of their lives in Sudan and have little to return to in Chad.

To put the magnitude of this crisis into perspective, this is three times as many people who arrived in the first years of the 2003 Darfur war.

2. Chad is the neighbouring country most affected by the war in Sudan

Chad is now hosting nearly 40 per cent of people who have fled Sudan since violence erupted in April. Refugees now outnumber locals by more than two to one in Adré, a town right on the border with Darfur and the main crossing point for people who flee Sudan. Refugee camps are full and the only homes now available to refugees are makeshift shelters.

Across eastern Chad, one in three people are now refugees.

3. Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world

Chad ranks at the bottom of most human development indicators and has one of the highest levels of hunger in the world. In Chad, 42 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line. This means that refugees and locals in eastern Chad are both lacking the same life essentials, such as water, food, and healthcare.

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4. Refugees don't have enough water

Chad is one of the hottest and driest places in the world. Eastern Chad borders the Sahara Desert and is highly water scarce. This is where refugees from Sudan are living.

In some of the newly constructed refugee camps, each person has as little as seven litres of water per day to meet all their drinking, cooking and washing needs. This is less than what experts suggest is the minimum for people in emergencies. People wait in lines for water brought in by trucks, often considering themselves lucky to have water once every two days. Others choose to dig in dry riverbeds in search of water.

5. Half the refugees are children

Most people who have fled to Chad are women and children. In Sudan, 90 per cent of these refugee children were in school. But in Chad, there are not enough classrooms or teachers. In Adré, there can be as many as 130 children per class. Outside the main cities there are almost no schools, leaving both Chadian and refugee children without access to education.

6. Chad is surrounded by crisis and conflict

Chad is a landlocked country touching North, West, and Central Africa. All six of Chad's neighbours have faced a refugee crisis or conflict in the past. This includes Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Sudan. Chad has become the fifth largest refugee-hosting country in the world per capita.

7. Chad is already home to more than 1 million displaced people

Before the recent emergency, Chad was already providing refuge to more than one million people from different countries. The majority of these refugees are from Sudan, having arrived a decade ago during the first Darfur war.

Other regions of Chad host more than 170,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Finally, there are more than 200,000 internally displaced people living mostly near Lake Chad in the southern corner of the country.

8. Chad is hard hit by climate change

Chad is named after Lake Chad, one of the world's largest freshwater lakes. Located at the intersection of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger, Lake Chad is the single most important water source for the 30 million people living along its shores. Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 per cent since 1963. Reduced rainfall caused by climate change, as well as the increased use for agricultural irrigation, are blamed for Lake Chad's shrinking.

Beyond Lake Chad, the whole country is susceptible to climate shocks. In 2022, unprecedented rainfall caused flooding that affected over 1.3 million people across Chad. Chad has been listed as the second most vulnerable country to climate change in the world.

9. Rainy season makes eastern Chad hard to access

Ouaddaï province in eastern Chad, where the majority of refugees are crossing, is named for the many Wadis across its landscape. Wadis are canyons which act as riverbeds that fill with rain during the rainy season.

Between May and October, as the rainy season descends in eastern Chad, roads become flooded, and trucks and cars can't always pass due to high river levels. This makes it challenging for people to make it to hospitals and access aid distributions. This is one reason why it's vital to scale up aid and ensure people have secure shelters and adequate food reserves in place before the rainy season begins.

10. NRC is providing support in eastern Chad

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) launched an emergency response in eastern Chad to address the pressing needs. We are constructing emergency shelters for people without a safe place to live and setting up emergency classrooms for children to have a safe place for education.

We aim to continue to scale up support and bring the world's attention to Chad.

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