News / Africa

Worst Flooding in Decades Strikes Chad

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Lisa Schlein

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that flooding is affecting up to 9,000 people in Chad, following the heaviest rainfall recorded in 40 years.  The agency says it is distributing essential survival items, including blankets, plastic sheeting and bed mats to thousands of flood victims.  

Heavy flooding has affected large areas of Chad since mid-July.  But the destruction there has been largely overshadowed by the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan.  

Spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency Adrian Edwards says the size and scope of the Chadian disaster pales in comparison to what is happening in Pakistan.  But, he says, that is no reason to overlook the great needs of thousands of people in Chad who are caught in a desperate situation.

What's being done

He says the agency is doing its best to reach the victims.

"Our staff trying to reach these areas are facing difficulties," said Adrian Edwards. "In doing so, we have had vehicles washed away in trying to cross what are normally dry riverbeds, but now can be very precarious to try and cross.  Our staff are frequently having to overnight on routes to camps and back.  So the information about the situation is quite slow to come through."  

The flooding follows two years of drought.  The torrential rains have brought hope for a productive farming season for some people.  But, others have seen their villages destroyed and their cultivated lands inundated.  

The UNHCR reports at least 1,800 families are homeless in the northern town of Faya Largeau.  But, it says no region has been spared.  Heavy rains are falling in the North, West, Southeast and East.  And, it notes some districts of the capital N'Djamena also are affected.

The agency provides aid to more than one-quarter of a million Sudanese refugees who fled to Chad to escape the conflict in Darfur.  It also assists many of the 170,000 people internally displaced in Chad.

Primary focus

UNHCR spokesman Edwards says the agency is primarily focused on these refugees and displaced persons.

"But, where we see communities affected that include those that we care for, we do our best to provide for or help all members of the community," he said. "We have a humanitarian duty at the end of the day that extends to a rather wider population than purely refugees."  

Edwards says the situation is still evolving, and it will be awhile before the full extent of the disaster is known.  He says the UNHCR has received reports that some families have had to flee their homes as the riverbanks overflowed.

He says some of the people made homeless by the floods are being hosted by neighbors or are staying in schools.  He says many are without any shelter and are in need of tents, tarpaulin and plastic sheeting to protect themselves from the ongoing rains.

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