Children make up many of Chad’s returnees
As a spate of conflicts affect neighbouring countries, Chad is struggling to deal with an influx of returnees, many of them children.
With instability in the Central Africa Republic, northern Nigeria, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, many Chadians are returning home and according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), returnees include a “very high percentage of children”. While most are accompanied by their mothers, as men remain to protect livelihoods and property, some children are unaccompanied minors, having either lost or become separated from their parents.
A spokesperson for the IOM in Chad told the news agency IRIN that many of the returnees lack shelter and basic supplies as they seek refuge in remote border regions of Chad. Because of the remoteness of border areas, it is also hard for agencies to provide timely emergency assistance and medical care.
An estimated 22,000 Chadians have fled renewed fighting in the Dafur region of Sudan and arrived in the border town of Tissi. The IOM says that more than 70% of these returnees are children. Along the border with Nigeria, another 1,300 Chadians are taking refuge in the village of N’Gouboua, where there are a reported 770 youngsters, 268 of them unaccompanied. Some are students from Koranic schools, who have decided to return home due to violence in northern parts of Nigeria.
The IOM warns that children who were born and grew up outside Chad will face serious challenges in adapting to the country’s education system, assuming they can be integrated into existing schools. To help address the problem, the IOM is working with Chadian education officials and the UN’s Child Agency, UNICEF, to assess the needs of returnee children, particularly those who don’t speak French or Chadian Arabic.
New returnees, along with migrant workers and families who had already come back from Libya, are putting a huge strain on already overstretched resources in Chad. They have arrived at a time when the country continues to host around 300,000 refugees from Sudan along its eastern border and when many home communities are struggling to grow enough food after severe droughts affected Sahel regions last year. Agencies have warned that millions still need more assistance in Chad and other Sahel countries to rebuild livelihoods and reduce food insecurity.
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