Chad regional crisis: A home for the homeless

By: 
CARE
Amina inside the new shelter constructed by CARE for her and her family

Meet ‘Amina’ (not her real name). Amina and her family fled when insurgents attacked their village in western Chad – victims of a regional crisis caused by violent conflict and exacerbated by poverty and underdevelopment.

They arrived in Daraim Camp, a settlement for displaced people on the shores of Lake Chad, with little more than the clothes on their backs. She told us:

I lived with my family on an island on the lake, until the insurgents came one night and attacked our village. They burned our home to the ground. I swept up my children and together we ran.

Old shelter in Chad

Most of the camp’s residents live in shelters built from whatever materials they can find including branches of trees and old metal sheeting. The shelters offer little protection from the sun, wind and rain. Construction materials are in short supply in this remote desert region, and the little that’s available is too costly for most families.

New shelter being constructed

To ensure families like Amina’s have somewhere safe to sleep, CARE began working with camp residents and local authorities to design new shelters specifically for conditions in the Lake Chad region. Especially adapted to the sandy terrain, the shelters are made of locally available materials such as ‘kai’, the reeds grown on the edges of the lake.

New shelter constructed by CARE

The shelters protect their residents from the heat of the dry season, the winds of the cooler season, and the rains of the wet season. The structures are expected to last between eight and nine years.

Amina inside her new shelter in Chad
Amina and her young baby inside the newly constructed shelter

I love my new ‘home’. We are well settled and I’ve begun a small business weaving mats and household items for sale. With the money I make, I’m able to buy food for my family.

CARE is doing what it can but the needs are many: food, shelter, clean water, health and, most of all, peace. As Amina says:

If there was peace tomorrow, I would go home – to my real home – today.

The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin

The ravages of violent conflict, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change are affecting more than 17 million people across the Lake Chad Basin. Nearly 11 million people – over half the population of the region spanning north-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, south-eastern Niger and western Chad – are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Lac region of western Chad is home to some of the region’s poorest communities. Lake Chad, once the source of livelihoods for generations in this part of Africa, has shrunk to one tenth of its original size. Seasonal rainfalls have declined, but the population continues to grow.

Since 2015, the violent conflict originating in Nigeria has spilled across the border, affecting more than 430,000 Chadians and forcing more than 118,000 from their homes – people like Amina.

Crisis map and stats for Lake Chad region July 2017

Across the region, over seven million people - one in three families - is food insecure, and malnutrition rates have reached critical levels, particularly in the north east of Nigeria. For many of the displaced, there is no choice. Faced with a lack of resources among host communities and displacement sites, many people are returning home to devastated villages, without infrastructure or basic services.

Reaching people in need remains one of the main challenges for humanitarian actors because of high levels of insecurity and restricted access. Many areas in Cameroon, Chad and Niger are out of reach. CARE is beginning operations in Nigera and has already reached almost 400,000 people in Cameroon, Chad and Niger with life-saving food, shelter, water, farming supplies, household and cooking items as well as hygiene kits.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.