It is time for funding and programs to shift away from emergency aid and toward longer-term early recovery activities in eastern Chad, in order to meet the current needs of both refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).
Around 250,000 refugees from Darfur have been living in camps in eastern Chad for the past five years. While the situation in their home areas has yet to improve, the humanitarian situation in the camps is comparably stable.
Early recovery programs for the refugees, with a particular focus on women, healthcare, livelihoods and agricultural opportunities are needed now. Donors should also increase funding for education and skills training activities for youth, which are vital to the protection of refugee children in the camps. Assistance must aim to develop self-sufficiency amongst the refugee population in order to reduce their vulnerability and dependence on foreign aid.
Lack of access to resources in eastern Chad often creates tensions between the host community and refugees, and in some areas like Bahai, refugees are attacked by local people when they leave the camp to collect firewood or water. In order to improve the security and protection for refugees in the camps, more support is needed for the DIS, a Chadian police force that receives training and equipment from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Chad (MINURCAT).
For the approximately 167,000 IDPs also in eastern Chad, insecurity caused by the frequent clashes between rebel groups and the Chadian national army is preventing many from returning permanently to their home areas. Some IDPs will go back home to plant during the current rainy season, but most will return again to displacement sites where they have better access to education, health care, water, and security.
United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations should remain flexible in how they continue to give assistance to IDPs in eastern Chad. While basic services in return areas must be increased, some assistance must also continue in the sites, particularly for those who do not yet wish to return home.
Ultimately, in order to improve the situation for Darfuri refugees and Chadian IDPs, the U.S. must develop a broader strategy for peace in the region, which includes Darfur, Southern Sudan, and Chad. The U.S. should also support a political mandate for MINURCAT in order to help resolve the root causes of the instability in eastern Chad.