Oxfam and the Chad crisis – March 2009

Since the breakout of Darfur crisis in 2004, eastern Chad has been an unstable and insecure area. About half a million people fled their homes to reach camps in the region. 250,000 Sudanese refugees, 180,000 displaced Chadian and 70,000 refugees from Central African Republic are entirely depending on humanitarian assistance.

Oxfam has been working in Chad for many years and since 2004 has set up emergency programs in eastern Chad. We're providing clean water and sanitation to 160,000 people in eastern Chad, in a scarce resource environment. As well as digging wells and building latrines, we distribute essential items such as soap, jerry cans, and provide health education to prevent the spread of disease.

In addition, we provide livelihood opportunities and skills training to reduce dependency on aid; we are working to promote better management of natural resources such as water; and we are advocating at local and global levels for a sustainable political solution to end the suffering. Oxfam has in addition to it a food security program for vulnerable and a protection program.

What is the current security situation?

Eastern Chad is an extremely insecure, violent area. Local conflicts have been exacerbated by the Darfur crisis, which has sent thousands of refugees over the border into Chad from 2004 onwards. The overall environment of insecurity is increasing inter-ethnic tensions and has led to conflicts and further displacement. Last November 50 people died and many more were injured when inter-ethnic clashes took place in Birak between Tama and Zaghawa. As a result, 700 families became displaced or closed the border into Sudan. Oxfam is concerned that rising tensions between Chad and Sudan could lead to further reprisals.

How is the work of humanitarian organizations on this insecure environment?

Humanitarian organizations are put at risk because of growing attacks of armed bandits against life saving operations. Since the beginning of 2009, more than 10 aid workers have been physically attacked, several vehicle hijacked and aid compounds are continuously attacked. Our ability to reach population in need is greatly undermined by growing banditry.

What can international community do?

The need to protect people, especially women, who are suffering due to existing insecurity, remains. Civilians still need protection as much as they did a year ago when EUFOR was deployed. Therefore, Oxfam urges the European Countries currently providing troops and/or funding, to keep their commitment and contribute to MINURCAT II with at least the same resources.

How many EUFOR troops were deployed?

In September 2007, UN Security Council approved a resolution to send a European military force (EUFOR) of 3.700 troops and a Chadian police force (DIS) under the UN umbrella (MINURCAT) to protect all civilians. March 15th EUFOR hand over to MINURCAT II. Overall, 5.200 troops are expected to be deployed under MINURCAT II: 4.900 troops in Chad and 300 in Central African Republic.

Which countries participated in EUFOR?

Austria, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, Croatia, Russia, Albania, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Slovenia, France and Poland.

Which countries are going to participate in MINURCAT II?

Togo, Ghana, Norway, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malawi, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Croatia, Russia, Albania, France and Poland.

What needs to be done now?

To address the crisis, the international community must urgently increase the pressure on all the different parties to agree - and adhere to - an immediate cessation of hostilities. MINURCAT must protect all civilians from all types of violence from all perpetrators. It must proactively interpret its mandate to help stabilise the situation and provide protection to civilians and humanitarians regarding the current insecurity threats. Oxfam believes that a protection force is only the first step to reduce the conflict in Chad. Without a comprehensive and inclusive peace process that addresses the root cause of the conflicts, violence will continue to plague civilians in eastern Chad.