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Extreme poverty in Chad

I’m writing from Chad – our work in this country is a perfect example of Concern’s commitment to helping the world’s poorest people.

Stark reality

When I arrived in Chad on 4 May, I was struck by misleading signs of wealth. Like so many other capital cities in Africa, lush boulevards and nicely paved roads give an impression of wealth. However, this masks the stark reality of a country crippled by poverty.

No electricity

Ndjamena, the Capital of Chad, is at first glance impressive. But my first real taste of the deep underlying poverty of this country comes when I realise there is no electricity in most of the capital city. Driving from the airport, the hum of generators can be heard over the engine of the car! When I arrived at Concern’s guest house, I found it equipped with a generator but without water. With a shortage of water and electricity in the capital city, it’s hard to imagine how the people in rural areas cope.

Rural poverty

As I began the 600km journey from Ndjamena to Gore, I was struck by the rural poverty evident just a few kilometres outside of the city. Small clay brick houses with no windows and grass thatched roofs lined the sides of the roads. Most of these dwellings do not even have a latrine. Young women can be seen pounding grain with heavy pieces of timber – this is the way they have been doing it for centuries – there are no grinding machines. The major challenge for women living in these dwellings is how to feed their many children.  

Silent emergency

An easy way to get an insight into the lives of women in an African village is to ask them how many children they have given birth to and how many are still alive. The contrast between the two numbers they give often says it all. I asked this question to a few women who are part of our self-help group in Gore. One told me she had given birth to nine children and four were still alive. Another said she gave birth to nine children and eight were still alive. A third woman said she had given birth to four children with two still alive. I am truly in awe of their resilience and I feel ashamed our world of wealth and riches can continue to let this silent emergency happen.  

Making progress

Concern is trying to help this group by providing training, equipment and facilities so that they can increase their income. They have made progress and are growing in confidence. Development takes time, it is not a quick fix, but we have to do more on so many levels to support these women, their children and their families.