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Reacting to crisis in Chad

Concern's Dennis Curry reports on the situation in Chad and how NGOs are reacting to the instability.

The recent troubles in Chad have generated international news headlines. The situation here has been unusual with intense fighting in the capital, while in the remote east of the country things have remained strangely quiet.

The first Concern heard of any problems were rumours of rebel movement in areas along the Chad-Sudan border. There were also incursions into areas closer to Goz Beida. Movement of this type is not uncommon and has affected some humanitarian work on the area. Things started to change when reports surfaced of incursions much deeper into the country. Eventually it was clear that a full-scale assault on Ndjamena was underway.

Risks and safety

Throughout this initial phase, Goz Beida remained calm. Nonetheless, agencies working there started to consider their position and security. The main fear was how events in the capital would affect things in the east. Different scenarios were discussed and considered. All of them involved some level of unknown risk. Clearly, Chadian staff members were extremely concerned for the safety of their families and friends.

Temporary measures

These issues, as well as worries over the ability of aircraft to airlift people in an emergency, led many agencies to decide to temporarily reduce their staff numbers. Concern concurred and moved some personnel to Abéche on a temporary basis. From Abéche, the situation could be monitored from a less exposed position.

Operating at reduced levels

There were obvious questions over what would happen to programmes in the affected areas: 38,000 displaced people still needed assistance. Concern had previously worked with other NGOs to plan for such a scenario. In particular, it was crucial that services in water, health and food were maintained.

Despite Concern staff being relocated to Abéche, essential services at the sites continued. Concern has been active in all four camps as often as possible.

At the time of writing the situation remains relatively stable in Goz Beida but the new unrest will disrupt the proper programme work. In eastern Chad, the situation is particularly alarming. We are told on news broadcasts that it will take decades to recover from the devastation in the capital. We will wait to see if the arrival of the EU peace-keeping force will improve the situation. In the meantime Concern, along with other agencies on the ground, will seek to minimise the human cost of this ongoing crisis.