Floods in a Barren Land: Heavy Rains hit Hunger-Striken Chad

Still high numbers admitted to MSF nutrition programs

“The current rainy season in Chad is a curse and a blessing for the dry belt across the country, in which people have been suffering from poor harvests and food insecurity”, says Dr. Kodjo EDOH, Head of Mission for MSF in Chad. “It is good for the pastoralist part of the population, who rely on animal products such as milk and meat. They will be able to graze their cattle now and their nutritional situation will improve soon. The majority of people in some of the areas we work in, namely in AmTiman and Bokoro, however, are agriculturalist. They are planting their seedlings now but some of them have already been washed away by the heavy rains and flooding. This might delay the first harvests planned for late October, November and thus possibly worsen the nutrition crisis.”

In fact, areas in Chad have been hit by the worst flooding in more than ten years. In the Sebab area, close to Am Timan where MSF supports a 100 bed hospital, approximately 6,000 people are affected. “The current state of the population in Sebab does not allow them to even light a fire. They just built a one meter high wall with sand bags to protect some part of their village and the health center, but water already passed over it,” says Jean-Francois HARVEY, project coordinator for MSF in Am Timan. “Their representative, whom I met in Am Timan last week, said that they sleep very little out of fear of increased flooding. Currently, they are surrounded by water on two sides. To reach MSF in Am Timan, they had to swim and use bikes.”  In Kerfi, where MSF supports a health center, approximately 5,000 people are affected by the floods. MSF provided empty bags to elevate dams and is looking for further viable ways of doing a needs assessment of the affected population.

“In July we saw a sharp increase in the defaulter rate of our patients from 8.5 to about 20.5 percent in Kerfi, as people living outside of town have been isolated by the floods and were not able to reach our health center. The people in Chad have been rather unlucky: reduced rain fall created the food crisis that will now be worsened by too much rain“, says Dr. Edoh.

Another aggravating factor that comes with the rain is an upsurge in malaria cases. With limited access to treatment, malaria will be an additional threat to the lives of already fragile, malnourished children. “We will be faced with a deadly association of malnutrition, malaria and flooding” says Dr. Edoh.

Just in Bokoro and Am Timan about 1,914 children have been admitted to MSF’s nutritional program between May and July. “When we started our intervention in Bokoro in May, we saw many children die. Most of them presented late and many parents rather confided in the power of traditional healers. With an increase in manpower and community health workers to sensitize the communities, however, we managed to improve awareness and acceptance in the communities and the quality of care given in the feeding centers. As consequence, the mortality rate in our feeding program decreased significantly from 21 percent in June to 5 percent in July.” The efforts continue, and new feeding centers and project sites are being opened in different places across the country.

Currently, MSF is offering feeding programs in the Hadjer Lamis, Batha, Guéra, Chari Baguirmi, Ouaddai and  Salamat  regions in Chad,  as well as in the capital city of N’Djamena. Up to now, about 15,776 malnourished children have been admitted to MSF feeding programs since the beginning of the year, the overwhelming majority within the last three months.