Topping the charts as one of the world’s most food-deficient countries, Chad ranks 184 out of 187 countries on the 2012 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. With a population of around 11.5 million, nearly 87 percent of the rural residents live below the poverty line.
This economic instability is in part the result of several different conflicts over the last 50 years between different ethnic groups within the country. However, Chad is also hindered by a landlocked location and tough desert climate that makes it especially vulnerable to chronic food deficiencies. From erratic rains to locust infestations and cyclical droughts, Chad’s cereal and crop production has seen a severe decrease as of 30 percent in 2011, followed by an even more severe food and nutrition crisis in 2012.
It is a crisis that has continued to worsen, as refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan and the Central African Republic have flooded Chad. As of now, there are approximately 330,000 refugees in the country, all in need of food and shelter.
Currently the World Food Program (WFP), with the assistance of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), has launched a number of different projects in an effort to combat hunger and fight malaria in the nation.
One such project is the Relief and Recovery Operation, started in January 2012 and set to last two years. The program’s five main objectives are to:
- To curb acute malnutrition among children 5 years of age and younger, as well as among lactating women.
- To prevent acute malnutrition to children under 2 years old.
- To meet adequate food needs for Sudanese and Central African refugees.
- To strengthen and build resilience among communities in regards to weather threats.
- To reestablish food security for communities and households most affected by external conflict.
The Relief and Recovery Operation also includes the distribution of blankets, general food and other supplementary supplies to over 2 million beneficiaries, at a cost of $412.8 million. Meanwhile, between January and December 2012, the WFP Food Assistance Program reached around 2 million people, 760,000 which were children. Approximately 62,000 metric tons of food valued around $91 million were delivered.
Steps are also being taken to end Chad’s malaria epidemic. Currently, 780,000 people are suffering from malaria, a number almost double that of previous years. Some experts have speculated that ongoing droughts and erratic rainfall, which could encourage mosquitoes to breed, might be responsible. So far malaria has taken the lives of almost 2,057 people in the past year alone.
In the districts where malaria runs most rampant, supplies such as bed nets, medicines, vaccinations and other preventative treatments have been distributed by the Chad government, with the assistance of UNICEF and WHO. In a place where 33 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 23 months are not vaccinated and run the risk of disease and malnutrition, preventative measures and outside assistance offers Chad’s future its best chance.
– Jeffrey Scott Haley