N’DJAMENA, CHAD — Chad is a landlocked country bordered by Nigeria, Libya and Sudan, among others. While Chad is the fifth largest African country, it has a very low average population density of only 20 persons per square mile. In comparison, the United States has an average population density of 87 persons per square mile. Another lingering issue in the country is the fact that most Chadians live in rural conditions. The population of Chad depends largely on agriculture, specifically cotton and cattle, for survival. In 2003, Chad became an oil-producing nation which helped bolster the country’s economy, and in 2018, Chad started to see economic growth as oil prices rose globally.
Poverty in Chad
Although Chad has seen recent economic growth, the country’s economy ranks at the 36th place out of 47 among sub-Saharan African countries, scoring below both the regional and world average. The population struggles to find economic stability and 87 percent live below the poverty line. Life expectancy in Chad is only 52 years.
Among these other poverty issues, food availability is scarce in many areas throughout Chad. In rural areas, more than three million Chadians require humanitarian assistance and 790,000 citizens require emergency food assistance. On World Food Day in 2017, a day meant to advocate for zero hunger worldwide, around 335,000 people from the Lake Region, mostly children, were malnourished and in danger of starvation.
Malnutrition in Chad
Malnutrition in Chad is a serious concern, as 43 percent of children under the age of 5 are stunted. In 2018, the number of children admitted into treatment programs with severe acute malnutrition grew by 25 percent in comparison to 2017. The European Commission estimates that, in 2021, there will still be 1.18 million stunted children in Chad. This accounts for 37 percent of all children under the age of five in the country.
This is a serious burden to hospitals all around the country. In 2016, around 22,000 malnourished children were treated in hospitals supported by The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA). These hospitals were overworked and understaffed and often required more than 100 additional beds to meet the needs of these sick children. ALIMA, and its Chadian partner, Alerte Sante, provided medical care, nutrition units and other forms of aid for children already suffering from malnutrition.
Organizations Providing Aid
The people of Chad are not alone in their fight against malnutrition. In 2018, USAID contributed $62.9 million to its Chadian office of Food for Peace (FFP). FFP works with the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to provide food assistance in Chad. FFP supports food distributions, gives nutrition assistance to Chadian citizens and refugees and assists local food markets and suppliers.
WFP has been working in Chad since 1968. It supports 1.4 million people who are food insecure by enabling them to purchase food from their local market and providing them with nutrition support, especially children aged 6 months to 2-years-old. The organization’s work also extends to specific groups, such as refugees and schoolchildren.
WFP’s three main operations are:
- Protracted relief and recovery operation
- School meals program
- Emergency operation
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is another organization working to end malnutrition in Chad. While other organizations focus on providing emergency food assistance, FAO focuses its efforts on supporting the development of agriculture across the country. It works to reduce the risk of natural disasters caused by farming and irrigation; increase agricultural, livestock and fisheries production; create sustainable natural resource management and support rural development.
While Chad still has a long way to go to end malnutrition and hunger, countless people around the world are willing to help. Whether through agricultural support, emergency food assistance or medical care, organizations like USAID and ALIMA are working to bring an end to hunger, stunting and malnutrition in Chad.
– Natalie Dell