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FEWS Chad Food Emergency Alert Sep 2005 - Refugee rations may be reduced

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República Centroafricana
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Possible cutbacks in food rations for Central African Republic and Sudanese refugees over the next few months

The agricultural season has been going smoothly in most farming areas of the country. According to several sources, good harvests are expected. However, desert locusts and grain-eating birds are threatening crops in areas along the Chadian-Sudanese border in Darfur, Guera and Batha. Grain prices have been moving downwards since the second half of August but are still way above normal.

Having made it through a difficult pre-harvest lean period, the food situation of communities in areas vulnerable to food insecurity problems is beginning to improve, particularly in the Kanem region and parts of the Lac and Mandoul regions. Right now, the food situation of the Sudanese refugee population is satisfactory and, according to the latest reports by WFP partners, nutrition indicators in the refugee camps have improved. However, the Emergency Operations Program (EMOP) is in need of funding for the pre-positioning of food supplies for next year and the food pipeline has been slowed by heavy rains throughout the country. In the meantime, the WFP and its partners will be mounting new projects to improve food security conditions in native communities in eastern Chad. The food situation of recent refugees from the Central African Republic is still serious.

According to the UNHCR, there are around 200,000 Sudanese refugees, all of whom have already or are due to receive full food rations (2,070 Kcal/person/day) for the month of September. However, part of these rations is invariably sold or traded to meet other food and non-food needs and in exchange for other services such as the grain milling. Food supplies have already been distributed in refugee camps in the south-central part of the country (88,882 recipients). In the north, distributions of food rations providing 2,070 Kcal/person/day began on September 19 (110,465 recipients). Sanitary conditions in the Touloum, Iridimi and Millé camps are deteriorating in the wake of the destruction of a number of latrines by bad weather and heavy rains. There is a real risk of new outbreaks of epidemiological diseases if this situation is neglected.

The number of new refugees crossing into southern Chad from the Central African Republic is increasing every day. New waves of refugees are expected, given the dangerous conditions in northern CAR. Right now, 843 new refugees arriving in the villages of Mballa and Kaba, twenty or so kilometers from Goré, towards the end of August are waiting to be relocated to the Amboko camp. The hold-up is due to a shortage of tents. The resettlement of these refugees in Mballa and Kaba will increase the size of the population of the Amboko camp from 23,443 to 24,286 residents, including the 13,826 refugees living in the camp since 2003. The remainder of the camp population dates back to June and July of this year, when wave after wave of refugees flooded into the country.

The latest influx of refugees is attributable to two main problems, namely:

- The dangerous conditions created by fighting between armed rebels and CAR government forces, on one hand, and, on the other hand, groups of well-armed herders referred to as Zarguina, who allow their animals to stray into the fields of local farmers in the CAR; and

- The food insecurity conditions faced by a population besieged by the aforesaid situation

Unlike the case of the Sudanese refugees, these recent refugees from the CAR have not commanded much attention from the international community. The Chadian government and its humanitarian partners are working to ensure that these new refugees are effectively assisted, but are concerned about the food shortage. Right now, WFP is seriously considering cutting back food rations for September/October given the irregularity of supplies flowing through the food pipeline to settlement areas for the refugees and the numbers of new refugees crossing the border into Chad day after day. The WFP needs to juggle the size of its food ration to better manage food supplies in the Amboko camp in order to feed the entire camp population. The original ration, which covered a full month's worth of food needs, is being cut down to a 25-day ration, with the equivalent of these 5 days distributed to the new refugees who were not taken into account in planning the size of corresponding food inventories. The problem is the same in the case of water, with the water ration reduced to 12 liters per person per day (down from 21 liters).

The Sudanese refugees, for their part, are having problems with the weight of the sacks of grain being distributed in their camps which, in many cases, does not meet the 50 kg standard. During the last distribution of grain in the Bredjing and Treguine camps, for example, 273 persons were left without any wheat, forcing them to share the rations of other refugees. Moreover, a number of refugees are complaining that, in some cases, the sacks are torn and missing part of their ration.

Several sources are reporting friction between the local population and refugees from the CAR living outside established camps engendered, not only by the need to share refugee food supplies with the host community but, also by the refugees' habit of =1Cnibbling=1D on early crops in the maturation stage in the fields of local farmers, which is reducing their already meager on-farm inventories and exposing them to food insecurity problems. The heavy rains sweeping the area and the treacherous condition of local roads are making it difficult to relocate these recent refugees to established camps, which could heighten current tensions and increase the risk of localized food insecurity problems. The torrential rains reported throughout the region are also disrupting efforts to pre-position needed food supplies.

Health conditions and the nutritional state of the population are still unstable. There are frequent reports of cases of malaria. As for the nutritional state of the population of camps for refugees from the Central African Republic, the UNHCR estimates the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition at 15, with another fifty or so under surveillance.

According to the report by a rapid mission to Mayo Boneye Department by the Crop Production Service (DPA), flooding in the wake of the heavy rains has destroyed 5,389 homes and 3,889 hectares of crops, affecting approximately 15,146 area residents, who are currently living in hardship and are in need of both food and non-food aid. A dozen or so districts of Bongor, the capital of Mayo Boneye (see map), have been severely damaged.

Map 1. Settlement areas for Sudanese and Central African refugees and areas recently hit by major flooding