As the year progresses, the number is likely rise to around 3.5 million people. Already, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) reports levels of acute malnutrition in children higher than the ‘emergency’ 15% rate in 15 out of 22 regions in the country.
In response, the WFP is extending its food programme, which has already provided supplies and nutritional support to half a million people since January. The organisation is now targeting 1.6 million people in the worst-affected areas of Chad (in Kanem, Bahr-El-Ghazel, Batha, Sila, Ouaddai, Wadi Fira, Hadjer Lamis, Lac and Guera). Last week, two flights arrived carrying two hundred metric tonnes of food, as well as a fortified peanut paste (known as ‘Plumpy’doz’) for infants. Around 36,000 children under the age of two years will receive the high-nutrient paste.
Having arrived in the capital of Ndjamena, the food supplies will now be taken by truck to areas in eastern Chad. As the WFP Chad Country Director explained, it’s important to bring the food in now, ahead of the rainy season. The airlifts also provide the quickest way to bring supplies into the landlocked country, where “food can take up to four months to reach the people who need it”.
The airlifts are part of a wider plan to distribute 500 metric tonnes of Plumpy’doz over the coming months. Other deliveries of the nutritional supplement will come overland through Cameroon and Sudan. The operation to feed infants across the affected regions of Chad is being funded through a 12 million dollar contribution from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). Other food operations are being supported by the WFP, with donations from various Western governments. The WFP says that in total, the programme in Chad will require 163 million dollars, though the organisation still needs 54 million dollars towards that. Overall, the crisis across the Sahel needs funding of over 800 million dollars and currently, the WFP only has a third of this amount.
International agencies understand that longer-term a wider system of support and investment is needed across the Sahel to help communities’ build resistance to drought and climate change. But for now, the need is urgent and huge. And the only way to save many thousands of lives is through delivering shipments of “emergency aid” and quickly.