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Chad: overlapping conflicts prompt ICRC to step up activities

12-02-2007 Press Briefing

At a press briefing in Geneva following a field visit to the country, the ICRC's director of operations, Pierre Krähenbühl, explained the complexity of the conflicts in eastern Chad and described the organization's efforts to meet the most urgent needs of the resident and displaced populations.


  ©ICRC/B. Heger/td-e-00063    
  Eastern Chad. Children collecting water at a distribution point set up by the ICRC.    

Chad has seen over 15 months of increasing unrest which has escalated into a generalized internal conflict. Hostilities began towards the end of 2005 with sporadic clashes between government troops and diverse Chadian armed opposition groups. Tensions further developed in the second half of 2006 in the eastern regions with civilians caught up in overlapping dynamics of conflict and violence.

The most recent attacks were carried out at the beginning of February this year against the border town of Adré.

Populations in eastern Chad have been affected both by confrontation between government armed forces and Chadian armed opposition groups and by age-old tensions that lead to inter-communal clashes mainly between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders over water and pasture. These long-term tensions have been influenced over time by deteriorating environmental conditions, primarily drought.

The violence has been further exacerbated by the conflict in neighbouring Darfur, with the arrival from 2004 onwards of some 200,000 refugees from Sudan living in 12 camps that line the eastern border of Chad. These arrivals have generated new tensions around access to resources as well as security concerns for the resident population.

The situation in Darfur has also caused increased attacks by armed groups that launch cross-border raids to loot and plunder border towns and villages.

" These overlapping layers of violence and conflict have led to the displacement over recent months of over 100,000 civilians across several regions of eastern Chad, " said Mr Krähenbühl. " It is important to understand this dynamic of conflicts that are local, national and regional, in order to conceive of how the populations in this region are affected. One cannot explain the dynamics inside Chad exclusively based on the events and implications of the situation in Darfur. "

The overall impact of the displacements and the internal conflict on civilians and combatants in eastern Chad led the ICRC to step up its operat ion in late 2006 and further in early 2007 in order to adapt to the change in the nature, scale and urgency of the needs. In budgetary terms, the organization has doubled its inputs from 8 million Swiss francs in 2006 to 17 million for 2007.

The ICRC's primary focus has been to respond to the needs of displaced people in the eastern regions but also to address some of the consequences of the displacements on the resident populations.

" As a matter of priority we've opted to work in delicate and isolated border regions where many of the other humanitarian actors are finding it difficult to gain access, " said Pierre Krähenbühl.

With regard to IDPs and residents, the ICRC has been focusing on the provision of food, seeds, farming tools and essential household items. The organization has reached some 15,000 people so far in 2007 and foresees to assist 40,000 people before the end of the year. The organization's water projects have benefited approximately 100,000 people to date in eastern Chad.

Other key activities include expanded medical programmes in favour of the war-wounded, visits to detainees, international humanitarian law training and tracing activities, including the exchange of thousands of Red Cross messages and the restoring of contact between family members, with particularly urgent attention paid to unaccompanied children.

" As for the future, in overall humanitarian terms we think that current trends do not look promising, and we expect to have to increase our activities in the spring at harvest time, when tensions are likely to rise between displaced and resident populations, " concluded Mr Krähenbühl.