Environmental Change in Chad
In the 1960s, the country Chad had one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Chad. Since then, Lake Chad and the rest of the country have undergone a dramatic environmental change. Environmental change is a widely-understood concept, but too many only know this through media portrayal. Media often presents it as a local rather than a global issue, and solutions tend to suffer from the same presentation. Here is some information about environmental change in Chad.

Lake Chad

Rural communities in the Lake Chad region depend on agro-pastoral and fishing activities. The water loss has made this highly dependent hydro-climate area difficult to live in. Its 430,000 inhabitants have had to adjust to the constant environmental change and new challenges. In the 1980s, the annual maximum flooded area of the lake varied from 25,000 kilometers. Today, that has reduced to 10,000 kilometers.

Correlation between the hydro-climate, increased violence and population growth could provide insight into detection challenges, such as shortfall of agricultural production, and identify solutions to prevent food insecurity. Seasonal changes, lake levels and local rainfall are essential to understanding future adaptations.

Community and Violence

In the 1960s, it was easy to share the water of Lake Chad, but today there is competition for the little water that remains. The rise in extreme weather conditions, which for Chad are primarily heat-related, links to conflict and violence. Moreover, the lack of shade in the area contributes to competition and violence. Human behavior becomes just as complicated as the environment undergoes further destruction. The temperature reaches over 40 degrees Celsius and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Violence has taken many forms in Chad and has led to the genocide of many Chadians. Here are some examples:

  • Children: The political conflicts have led to extreme violence against children that often results in death. Children are vulnerable to becoming child soldiers and victims of human trafficking. Many children end up orphans because of widespread diseases including AIDS. Those who live in rural areas experience these dangers the most because they often perform work that leaves them alone and vulnerable. Children also suffer from malnutrition and, due to the lack of advanced healthcare and healthcare workers, a high infant mortality rate exists. It is common for women to give birth without the assistance of medical professionals.
  • Religion: Opposing religious groups in Chad have taken matters into their own hands. They are deciding what is sinful and enforcing punishment that results in the death of and violence against young girls. Education has become a source of violent attacks against Chadians as religious groups prevent growing western education in these communities.
  • Poverty: About 63% of Chad’s population lives in poverty. The struggle to find food makes people living in poverty extremely vulnerable to extremism. With such a high percentage of the population struggling to find food day-to-day, community members can also become competitive with one another.

Women

Indigenous women who are suffering from the declining resources due to environmental change in Chad have taken lead in promoting change, using their own experiences as examples of the consequences of a deteriorating climate. Illiteracy among Chadians affects 32% of the population, as does the scarcity of medical health care workers. Large-scale agriculture is not directly affecting Chad, since it is practically non-existent. While it is true the men control what happens within these communities, women are often the heads of the family. In terms of the number of challenges that they struggle with to solve to protect their families, they are better able to provide insight into the needs of their communities.

The shifting climates often mean that the men who do work have multiple livelihoods as the seasons change. Women and children have to adapt to finding water and natural remedies to illnesses. Many often overlook their significance and not just in their communities. Some also see them as victims, as opposed to the communities who work hard to adjust to changes that are a result of their environmental degradation. Women have both knowledge and experience that provides the world with opportunities to better understand the importance of protecting and caring for the environment. In many instances, the communities have already learned to survive.

The future of Chad will depend on preventative measures and promoting peace. One should not interpret violence in communities as the fault of the community, but rather the community’s need to survive. It is difficult to maintain reason when fighting for one’s own life and one’s family. Understanding communities in countries such as Chad not just as unfortunate but as an example of the urgency for change in how the world approaches environmental change and solutions.

World For TCHAD

Guy Boypa is the founder of World for TCHAD. He was born in Chad but spent most of his life in France. When he visited Chad as an adult, he found his friends and family living in ruins due to lack of water and harsh living conditions. Boypa initiated the change he wanted to see as many women have been taking action in pursuit of change.

World for TCHAD is working in Chad to provide wells that make free water obtainable to Chadians, in addition to collecting donations to provide children and families with education and self-care supplies. Local French artists, including musicians and comedians, stay involved and raise awareness in the French community. Aligning with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), World for TCHAD is addressing environmental change while taking action. The organization recognizes the burden this is particularly on women and children who take on the pursuit to collect water every day.

So far, the organization has provided over 20,000 Chadians with clean drinking water from 26 wells, with the 2021 goal of adding 10 more. It is currently active in Chari-Baguirmi and Hadjer-Lamis regions and plans to expand into the Mayo-Kebbi East region. Between 2014 and 2015, 208 community wells were drilled and 14 human motor pumps supplied 13,000 villagers. About 74% of Chadians currently have access to unclean and unhealthy drinking water. World for TCHAD wants to provide for more than half of them.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

E Outbreak in Chad and Niger
An area rife with conflict and large refugee populations, the Lake Chad region is one especially vulnerable to diseases. The most recent concern is the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, which has been declared a stage one emergency by the WHO.

Hepatitis E is caused most often by exposure to fecal-infected water or undercooked meat and thus is prevalent in areas with poor water sanitation resources. Symptoms include a mild fever, reduced appetite and occasional vomiting. As the virus progresses, this becomes jaundice, dark liver, pale stools and sensitivity of the liver. In rare cases, acute liver failure is possible and often leads to death. Though the virus is often overlooked for the better-known hepatitis A, B and C, it is responsible for over 20 million infections and 40,000 deaths worldwide every year

In terms of treatment, infections typically do not require hospitalization, as the symptoms resolve by themselves after four to six weeks. However, in cases where liver failure occurs, hospitalization is required immediately. People with immunodeficiencies and pregnant women are especially at risk, and hospitalization is recommended for these populations.

In Am Timan, Chad, nearly 700 unique cases and 11 deaths occurred between September 2016 and January 2017. Since then, 70 cases have been reported each week. In the Diffa region of Niger, over 1,100 cases and 34 deaths were reported by the end of June. Additional cases have been reported in the large at-risk refugee population. In both countries, the WHO has declared the outbreak an emergency and is working alongside the Minister of Health to identify the epicenter.

The WHO’s investigations into the root of the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger are the first and most important step in keeping the people of the Lake Chad region safe, but more must be done in the meantime to ensure the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of at-risk people. The organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has worked hard to treat the proliferation of cases, but as the epidemic spreads from the city of Am Timan to the surrounding region of Salamat, more needs to be done.

Medicins Sans Frontieres has called for help in water sanitization, but the response was minimal. Due to this, the medical organization has taken it upon themselves to chlorinate 72 water stations in the city. In Diffa, it has treated 27,900 gallons of water and provided sanitation supplies to nearly 17,000 families. In order to curb the Hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, the WHO and Medicins Sans Frontieres need help. Their good work has mitigated the original outbreak, but money, supplies and volunteers are still needed to create the infrastructure to ensure such an outbreak is prevented in the future.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Radio Education Program for Lake Chad
Within the Lake Chad basin of Africa, there is a crisis occurring. This crisis includes the increasing rates of famine, floods and militia groups such as Boko Haram which threaten the lives of individuals across Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. This situation has displaced 1.3 million children and has made it difficult for students to access schools. However, a new program initiated by UNICEF and Education in Emergencies is providing a radio education program for Lake Chad that will give over 200,000 children potential access to education.

Conflict in Lake Chad has been occurring since 2009, with Boko Haram leading attacks against civilians and using violence to ban schooling. In the past eight years, Boko Haram has closed over 1,200 schools and has murdered over 600 teachers, as well as forcing 19,000 educators to flee. With many schools destroyed and more facing threats, children have no way to safely access education.

The occupancy of Boko Haram, although the primary threat to students, is not the only challenge when it comes to accessing schools. Children also encounter difficulty in mobility due to the rainy season, which causes flooding. This threat is all in combination with overarching threats of famine and water-borne diseases. These factors work together to make achieving an education almost impossible.

The UNICEF-designed radio education program for Lake Chad is an essential service that will educate children in the most rural areas of the country. This innovative program will feature 144 lessons on literacy, numeracy and other critical information. These lessons will be broadcast in French as well as in the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde and Hausa. This tool will reach children that have no other way to access schooling.

A significant aspect of this program is that it will be accredited by the governments of Cameroon and Niger. This point means the children using this program will not fall behind in their schooling and may have the potential to receive a certificate validating their success.

The radio education program for Lake Chad will also be bringing communities together, as UNICEF will be encouraging radio listening groups to help children get the most out of each broadcast. This measure will also ensure that adults will allow children to use existing radios and help with guided listening.

Despite the circumstances that currently prevent children from attending school, humanitarian organizations continue to find a way to keep these students learning. This radio education program will provide quality lessons to children that may have otherwise been denied an education entirely, ensuring that education will remain a priority for even the most vulnerable populations.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Google