Sudan refugees strain cash-strapped Chad’s hospitality

KOUFROUN (Reuters): There used to be one family in Fanna Hamit’s compound, now there are 11 families struggling to get by selling roasted crickets after she took in relatives fleeing the conflict in Sudan.

They are among 90,000 people who have escaped to Chad since fighting broke out in Sudan in mid-April — a major extra burden on one of the world’s poorest countries.

Even before this emergency, Chad was hosting 600,000 refugees from its war-torn neighbors and grappling with a fourth consecutive year of acute food shortages. Overall, around 2.3 million people are in urgent need of food aid, the World Food Programme warned earlier in May.

“The extraordinary hospitality of the Chadian government and its people has been demonstrated yet again … but the scale of this crisis requires more funding to save lives,” UN aid agency OCHA said in a call for increased international support.

Hamit, a 58-year-old widow with six children of her own, has had to make careful economies to provide for those sheltering in her compound, most of whom arrived in this border village of Koufron with nothing.

Squeezed into the open-air compound, the women cook together over small braziers in the sand as children play around them.

“They share everything with us: their food, their toilet, their clothes and all the rest,” said 78-year-old Kaltouma Yaya Abderahmane, who pitched up at Hamit’s door in the middle of the night in late April.

The sudden arrival of large numbers of people has also distorted the market for goods and squeezed water supplies in Chad’s remote and arid borderlands.

“Let’s not even talk about sugar … it’s doubled in price,” Hamit said, also lamenting the higher cost of grains and peanuts.

Tensions have risen over water use, which is traditionally sourced from communal wells. Some refugees at the Goungour refugee camp, south of Koufroun, told Reuters they had been barred by locals from drawing water in a nearby village and had to dig their own wells in dry riverbeds.

Hamit said she tried to help “even the refugees who have set up shelters nearby …. they come to us for water”.

“The situation is tough for everyone.”