A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Peace still elusive in Chad's volatile atmosphere
Civilians in Chad are still facing high levels of banditry and danger as the European force (EUFOR) hands over to a UN force later this week (Mar 15), says international agency Oxfam.
Although the European troops made some civilians feel safer, the underlying security situation has not significantly improved. Oxfam said that the current peace and democratization process is in a deadlock, jeopardizing the security of civilians across the country. The incoming UN force (MINURCAT II) will face the same shortcomings as that of its predecessor unless it adopts a more comprehensive approach.
“Crimes still go unpunished and banditry is a daily reality for thousands of civilians. Incoming UN troops must stand tall and act upon these violations. MINURCAT should help to address the security situation by tackling head-on the spread of looting and banditry”, said Pauline Ballaman, Emergency Program Manager of Oxfam International in Chad.
Oxfam said that sexual violence is increasing and armed groups remain free to recruit child soldiers. Inter-ethnic clashes have been reported in Northern Eastern Chad that have injured people and seen families flee their homes. Women are afraid to leave the camps to plant fields or collect firewood.
Humanitarian organizations have become a deliberate target, Oxfam says. Some agencies have had to stop work and leave people without help as a result of attacks on their staff and operations. Aid agencies have received an average of 25 attacks a month since last November and more than 10 humanitarian workers have been physically attacked since the beginning of 2009. Several NGOs have been forced to temporally suspend their activities due to this high-level of insecurity.
“The new UN force must tackle the widespread insecurity as its No. 1 priority. People in Chad still live in fear and insecurity. Women are attacked and raped as they seek food for their families and aid workers are under increasing attack," said Ballaman.
The international community particularly the EU must also work harder toward an inclusive peace process.
“Civil society, armed groups and traditional and religious leaders need to be brought together to tackle the root causes of conflict. Without a comprehensive political process, there will be no lasting peace in Chad,” said Ballaman.
Oxfam says that Sudan’s decision to revoke the license of 13 international NGOs in Northern Sudan could see an increase in arrivals as Sudanese refugees seek protection and aid in Chad. This will put severe pressure on already scarce resources. There are more than 250,000 Sudanese refugees, 180,000 internally displaced people and about 70,000 refugees from Central African Republic already living in Chad. Oxfam is concerned about Chad’s capacity to absorb yet more refugees into a highly unstable security situation.
Read more: Oxfam and the Chad crisis