UN warns food aid for 1.4 million refugees in Chad could end over limited funding

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Food assistance to 1.4 million refugees in Chad who fled the conflict in parts of the Sahel could end because of limited funding, the United Nations food agency warned Tuesday.

Most of the refugees escaped the war in Sudan and crossed into Chad in the last six months in numbers not seen in the last 20 years, the U.N.’s World Food Program said in a statement.

“This forgotten crisis has metastasized as the world’s eyes are on other emergencies … We cannot let the world stand and allow our life-saving operations grind to a halt in Chad,” said Pierre Honnorat, WFP’s country director in Chad.

Sudan plunged into conflict in April when long-simmering tensions escalated between the country’s military and the rival Rapid Support Forces, resulting in the death of more than 5,000 people and displacement of at least 5.2 million people amid reports of mass killings, rapes, and widespread destruction, according to the U.N.

Many of the displaced found their way to neighboring Chad, piling pressure on the already impoverished country as it becomes host to one of the largest and fastest-growing refugee populations in Africa, the WFP said.

“Collectively we must find a way to support the women, children and men who are bearing the full brunt of this crisis. Cutting our assistance is simply not an option because it will have untold consequences for millions of people, jeopardizing years of investment in fighting hunger and malnutrition in Chad,” Honnorat said.

The WFP said that malnutrition is a major concern, with nine in 10 new arrivals reporting “poor or borderline food consumption.”

Honnorat said the WFP urgently needs $185 million to continue its support to crisis-affected populations in Chad over the next six months. In the absence of that funding, he said, the agency is being forced to make “brutal choices” to prioritize certain needs and groups.

“In December, WFP will be forced to suspend assistance to internally displaced people and refugees from Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Cameroon due to insufficient funds,” Honnorat said. “From January this suspension will be extended to 1.4 million people across Chad – including new arrivals from Sudan who will not receive food as they flee across the border.”