California — Already host to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region, Chad is moving center stage as armed militants drive large scale population displacements and instability throughout the region. Having operated for a decade in Chad, International Medical Corps is calling on the international community to expand its support to this oft forgotten humanitarian emergency where religious extremism, chronic malnutrition, high maternal mortality rates and extreme levels of poverty threaten to destabilize the country and the region.
Emerging from decades of instability some five years ago, Chad is becoming an increasingly important stabilizing player in central Africa. As armed militants encroach upon its western borders from Nigeria, Libyan extremists trespass from the north, and tens of thousands of people seeking asylum arrive from the south fleeing the recent civil wars in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the landlocked country of Chad prepares to become the eye of the regional storm.
“For Chad to play the important role as a regional stabilizer, it will need more humanitarian aid to address immediate needs and additional development assistance for longer-term projects,” says Dennis Walto, Vice President of Program Innovation & Performance for International Medical Corps. “When national governments are able to provide basic services for their people, including food, security, education and health care, non-state actors with disruptive, radical agendas often no longer find fertile ground to operate.”
Working closely with the Government of Chad and UN Agencies, International Medical Corps has supported primary health care, emergency obstetrical and surgical activities, and nutritional and mental health services in camps with a referral hospital serving both refugees and host community populations. The organization is expanding its focus on promoting the integration of refugees into local socio-economic networks to build resilience while avoiding the social tensions that often arise when already vulnerable host communities see refugees receive goods and services that they themselves also desperately need. With more refugees arriving daily, International Medical Corps’ efforts to ensure that both refugees and host community families are stabilized will help the international community present a positive alternative to incessant militant attacks.
Says Walto, “The international community is smart to recognize the opportunity of stability in Chad, and we call on these stakeholders to increase investment in the kind of programming that leads towards development and peace, and away from poverty and extremism.”