Refugee Voices

Student refugees from Darfur attending a Jesuit Refugee Service school at Djabal Refugee Camp in eastern Chad talk about their hopes for the future.

Jesuit Refugee Service built the secondary school in eastern Chad with a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Djabal is home to thousands of refugees from Darfur, in neighboring Sudan.

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Mounting hunger in Chad

Mother and child.

Mother and child in Goz Beida, Chad. (Peter Balleis, S.J. - Jesuit Refugee Service)

(UNITED NATIONS) September 16, 2010 – Although there are signs of improvement in Niger, which is in the midst of a severe food crisis, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that child malnutrition rates are alarmingly high in neighboring Chad.

“We’ve seen the positive impact of timely, well-coordinated food and nutrition assistance delivered in partnership with the Government in Niger,” where almost half of the 15-million strong population are hungry, said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

But in Chad, which experienced a long and crippling lean season, “children are weak and need to continue receiving food and nutritional support,” she stressed.

Weak and erratic rainfall across the eastern Sahel destroyed much of last year’s harvest, also drying up watering holes for cattle.

To respond to the situation, WFP rolled out emergency food assistance operations in Niger and Chad to meet children’s nutritional needs and to keep families fed through the lean season, when food is in short supply and prices are on the upswing.

Manuel Aranda da Silva, the agency’s Emergency Coordinator for the Eastern Sahel, said that in some parts of Niger, prices are starting to fall in local markets and malnutrition rates among the very young are stabilizing.

Mr. Aranda da Silva, who has just wrapped up a fact-finding mission to Niger and Chad, said that hunger rates remain high among Chadian children.

Global acute malnutrition rates in Chad for children under the age of two are as high as 26 per cent in places, far exceeding the 15 per cent emergency threshold.

That figure is nearly four percent above the international definition for an emergency situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Young refugees in Chad need hope for future, not simply aid for today

Without adequate security or resources for education, young women and men in refugee camps would turn to prostitution or violence, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Chad said at a U.N. press conference.

Michele Falavigna, reporting on the humanitarian situation in Chad after his first three months, said the country had been at war for 40 years and had virtually “never known peace and development”.  The large number of displaced people, in the range of 300,000, from Sudan, Central African Republic and Chad itself, faced multiple challenges.

Displaced and local children at school in Chad's Kerfi village. (Ashley Gagne, JRS)

Displaced and local children at school in Chad's Kerfi village. (Ashley Gagne, JRS)

Although the camps contained some 60,000 women between the ages of 18 and 59, only half that many men were within the same age range, he said.  That meant that some 30,000 men were “doing something elsewhere”.  While a portion may be back cultivating land or simply no longer wished to be registered as refugees, others had taken up with warlords, gone into some form of trafficking, or joined criminal gangs.

It was time for the international community to look into the phenomenon, Mr. Falavigna said, pointing out that the scenario sent a message: while humanitarian groups had an obligation to protect and care for refugees, they must also offer young men and women growing up in camps hope for a decent life.  Without it, many would not stay in the camps, he said, adding that, for young women and girls, the easiest way to survive was by entering prostitution rings.  For men, it was to find a Kalashnikov and join a gang or armed group, which put peace and security at risk.
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New JRS school in Chad

JRS has opened a primary school for 94 children in Himede village, near the eastern city of Goz Beida. Working in close cooperation with semi-nomadic communities, JRS now supports seven schools serving approximately 700 children.

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Safer Schools in Chad

Safer schools needed to prevent children from joining armed activities in Chad

Education is key to a stable future

“Last July, my young son was enlisted in an armed group during a recruitment campaign near his school. Despite my repeated attempts to intervene, he was covertly sent into military training,” a Chadian man recently told JRS.

On Red Hand Day, 12 February, JRS West Africa calls upon the government, with the support of local and international communities, to increase efforts to prevent the use of children in armed groups through the creation of safer schools.

Minors have become involved in inter-ethnic fighting, internal rebellions, and the Darfur conflict. In May 2007, the government and UNICEF signed an agreement to release all children in its ranks. Approximately 600 children, out of as many as 10,000 have been withdrawn. JRS staff working in the country’s east report that children are still re-recruited and seen in uniform, sometimes near schools.

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