Humanitarian crisis looms in Chad as refugee camps face funding shortfall

Overcrowded refugee camps in eastern Chad are set to run out of money soon, exacerbating a dire humanitarian crisis caused by the spillover from a deadly conflict in Sudan, the United Nations said.

More than a million people in Chad, including refugees, face losing access to lifesaving aid unless more funding is raised to help, the U.N. World Food Program said this month.

The devastating conflict between feuding generals in Sudan has killed more than 5,000 people there and displaced over 5 million, the United Nations said. In Chad, refugee numbers are at a 20-year high. The U.N. has warned that the conflict is on course to become the world’s worst hunger crisis, with a third of Sudan’s 18 million people facing acute food insecurity already.

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At refugee camps in eastern Chad, lack of clean drinking water and sanitation is causing dangerous diseases to spread. Doctors Without Borders said it has recorded almost 1,000 cases of hepatitis E in the camps and several pregnant women have died.

Sudanese refugees displaced by the conflict in Sudan gather to receive food staples from aid agencies on March 5, 2024, at the Metche Camp in eastern Chad. Overcrowded refugee camps in eastern Chad are set to run out of money soon, exacerbating a dire humanitarian crisis caused by the spillover from the war in Sudan, the United Nations said. (AP Photo/Jsarh Ngarndey Ulrish)

“The situation is dire in all camps,” said Erneau Mondesir, the group’s medical coordinator in the region. “Without swift action to improve sanitation infrastructure and enhance people’s access to clean water, we risk witnessing a surge in preventable illnesses and unnecessary loss of life.”

At the Metche Camp, which is sheltering some 40,000 refugees, people are in dire need of water, food, shelter and basic sanitation. Earlier this month an Associated Press reporter saw aid workers unload sacks of grain from trucks for distribution as fierce winds blew across the rocky, sandy terrain.

Aid workers used loudspeakers to explain the work and distribute tokens among refugees. “Here we do distribution in a targeted manner,” Ahmat Absakine, an aid worker with Caritas, another aid group in the region.

Water shortages are causing diseases to spread, and aid workers fear a catastrophe if supplies run out.

WORLD’S LARGEST HUNGER CRISIS LOOMS IN SUDAN DUE TO ONGOING CONFLICT, UN OFFICIAL WARNS

“The spillover from the crisis in Sudan is overwhelming an underfunded and overstretched humanitarian response in Chad. We need donors to prevent the situation from becoming an all-out catastrophe,” said Pierre Honnorat, the World Food Program’s top representative in Chad.

Analysts also fear the humanitarian situation could cause Chad’s own political tensions to erupt. In February, opposition leader Yaya Dillo was killed in the capital. He was the president’s cousin and a strong contender in the presidential election scheduled for May.

Finances and aid supplies at humanitarian operations are critically low. This will increase competition over resources between refugees and host communities in eastern Chad, further fueling local tensions and regional instability,” said Andrew Smith, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, seized power after his father who ran the country for more than three decades was killed fighting rebels in 2021. Last year, the government announced it was extending the 18-month transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.

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