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UN Says Chad on Path of Reform

  • Lisa Schlein

In this November 2012 photo, children gather under a sole shade tree as they take a break from class outside their schoolhouse made of reeds in the village of Louri, in the Mao region of Chad.

In this November 2012 photo, children gather under a sole shade tree as they take a break from class outside their schoolhouse made of reeds in the village of Louri, in the Mao region of Chad.

A senior United Nations official says the Chadian government is making progress in addressing the country’s critical political, humanitarian and social issues. The official says the process of reform is long, but there appears to be a strong political will to come to terms with the country’s many underlying problems.

Chad is one of the poorest countries on earth. It is just emerging from decades of internal strife and conflict. It has to contend with the persistent volatility that affects central Africa.

Crises in Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and Nigeria have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. As a result, Chad currently is hosting more than 550,000 refugees, internally displaced people and Chadian migrants forced to flee Libya’s civil war in 2011.

At the same time, the United Nations reports more than 3.5 million people suffer chronic food insecurity and lack of clean water.

Despite these and many other problems, the U.N. resident humanitarian coordinator in Chad, Thomas Gurtner, says the country is moving forward.

He says the government of President Idriss Deby has completed a gradual democratization process that led to the country’s first local elections in 2012 - an election which saw the opposition party take power.

“The government has been able to gradually start addressing critical vulnerabilities," said Gurtner. "We have increased expenditures on the social services being provided. As an example, five percent of the annual budget was used in 2011 to cover the health needs. In 2013, 20 percent of the national budget is being allocated to this very critical element.”

By the same token, Gurtner says the government also is increasing investment into primary education. It is bringing essential services back to remote areas of the country, notably in the east where more than 300,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur and over 100,000 internally displaced people are living.

The U.N. coordinator says the government is starting to make an effort to divert some of the revenue from its oil resources to social needs, to improving the lives of the Chadian people.

But, he does acknowledge a need for greater transparency in the budget and in the running of the government. He says more scrutiny is needed to ensure better use of the resources the government is generating.

“Now, this cannot happen from day one within a short period of time," said Gurtner. "When you have had 30 years of strife, you obviously need to get at it gradually. But, everything is pointing in the right direction. Better oversight, better transparency are key for the success.”

The system of aid to Chad is primarily based on immediate needs. Gurtner says this has to change to a system that is more focused on long-term development.

He says international support should be focused on helping Chad strengthen its institutional and community resilience. He sees this as the best way to respond to acute socio-economic needs and to reduce long-term vulnerabilities.

Gurtner says reversing an ongoing brain drain would provide the government with the technical support it so badly needs. He says efforts must be made to woo back professionals from abroad, to repatriate the doctors, lawyers and economists who could help the country move ahead.
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