Chad: Displaced By Conflict, Hit By Food Shortage

Chad hosts nearly 400,000 refugees. Recently, over 6,000 sought refuge in the country from neighbouring Central African Republic. The refugees often live in dire conditions. Belmi is one of them.

Diba, southern Chad - Sitting on bare ground, Belmi Mercy seems worried. In her left hand, she holds a teaspoon. She scratches the surface of the ground with it occasionally. A cooking pot lies close to her. Normally, at this time of the day, the pot should already be hot from having sat over a fire. The 22 years old woman is visibly anxious.

Nearly a month ago, she had to flee her native village N'gaounday, in the Central African Republic, due to recurring violence between armed groups.

''I used to flee many times to the bush, and come back again a few days later,'' she said, ''but this time, they [the armed groups] killed nine people in my neighborhood. It was panic everywhere. I came very close to death, and I decided to leave.''

Belmi left her village with her two sons to cross the border. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) team accommodated her in the village of Mini in Chad, under the supervision of the Unietd Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, and the national commission in charge of refugees. There, Belmi received a hot meal. For the first time in a couple of days, she and her children had enough to eat.

A few days later, Belmi and her children were transferred to a safer place at Diba, a small village located over 40km from the border. With the support of UNHCR, Belmi was offered a shelter in the form of a plastic tent. She also received sleeping mats, cooking pots and a few other items to meet her basic needs.

Food ration reduced by half

Belmi is somewhat relieved by the donations, but has another concern: food shortage.

With the support of the World Food Programme (WFP), LWF has provided food to the new refugees in Diba. However, the food ration is insufficient. ''Every morning, I fetch some green leaves in the bush before cooking,'' she said, ''I mix the leaves with some leftover sorghum flour, and I eat with my children.''

Several thousand refugees, like Belmi, are facing food shortage in Chad. Due to the lack of funding, the monthly food ration provided to refugees has been reduced by half.

''It’s currently the lean period [when food stock dries out before the next harvest]. The reduced food ration could increase the level of malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant women,'' says Adamou Koumanda, LWF Representative in Chad, ''the LWF is doing its best to meet the needs of the refugees, and we are appealing for continued funding to do so.''

In total, ACT Alliance member LWF is providing assistance to over 200,000 refugees – half the total number in the country - and host communities in Chad thanks to the support of UNHCR, WFP, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (USA), and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe.