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Chad: Fighting in country's capital leads to looming humanitarian crisis in Cameroon

World Vision mobilizes resources to assist some 35,000 refugees in Cameroon who fled Chad's capital city because of fighting between rebels and government forces.

UPDATED February 12, 2008


Please note: If a sponsored child is directly affected by a crisis or disaster, it is World Vision's policy to notify that child's sponsor as soon as possible.

Mariam Yaya, 60, sits with one of her grandchildren in Kousseri, Cameroon. She and her family fled for their lives after they witnessed six neighbors die from a bombing in Chad's capital city, N'Djamena, on Feb. 2.
Mariam Yaya, 60, sits with one of her grandchildren in Kousseri, Cameroon. She and her family fled for their lives after they witnessed six neighbors die from a bombing in Chad's capital city, N'Djamena, on Feb. 2.
© 2008 Ann Birch/World Vision
Heavy fighting between government and rebel forces began on Feb. 2 and continued for several days in N'Djamena, Chad's capital city, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee the area for safety.

World Vision's community development programs — located in central and southern Chad — reportedly are stable and not affected.

Some 52,000 N'Djamena residents, however, were forced to flee the capital to Kousseri, in northern Cameroon, World Vision staff members report. Among them is Mariam Yaya, a 60-year-old grandmother: "I decided to run to Kousseri on Sunday night after witnessing the death of six neighbors after a bomb shell hit their house."

Meanwhile, the United Nations distributed emergency food to 37,000 hungry refugees in Kousseri. Many had not eaten for several days, including Mariam's 18 family members.

"There was no food for us when we arrived here [five days ago]," Mariam says. Like thousands of other refugees in the region, she set up a shelter for her family next to a small, thorny tree from which bed sheets and clothing is strung to provide a shelter. Most of the refugees in Kousseri are exposed to cold, windy weather.

World Vision to aid Chadian refugees


Because of the growing humanitarian crisis in Kousseri, World Vision's office in Chad is mobilizing resources to respond to the needs of refugees through a local church partner in Maroua, Cameroon. Located some 145 miles south of Kousseri, the site is linked to accessible roads and emergency supply stores. Talks are underway to possibly also partner with the United Nations to assist some 35,000 in the camps in Kousseri.

According our emergency team's latest assessments, the biggest needs now among refugees in Cameroon are basic non-food items — including plastic sheeting for temporary shelters, blankets, soap, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets — as well as cooking fuel and water cans.

Slideshow: Chadian refugee crisis

View a Christianity Today slideshow containing images taken by Ann Birch, a World Vision photographer. The photos depict the hardships faced by children and families fleeing the fighting in Chad's capital city.



Children's needs paramount

Refugees gather after fleeing violence in Chad's capital city of N'Djamena. World Vision is prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable who are affected by this crisis, including children, women, and the elderly.
Refugees gather after fleeing violence in Chad's capital city of N'Djamena. World Vision is prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable who are affected by this crisis, including children, women, and the elderly.
© 2008 Ann Birch/World Vision

Our primary focus during times of crisis is the needs of children and other vulnerable populations, including women and the elderly.

In the midst of the present situation in Chad, World Vision also is calling on the international community to assure that rebels and the Chadian government do not conscript children to be child soldiers. On the Cameroon side, we are calling for children's needs to be given priority attention by governmental and humanitarian groups. Humanitarian access must be assured regardless of the outcome of the conflict.

World Vision also is requesting children's protection during the upcoming relocation process to a more secure refugee site in Maroua.

Widespread crisis feared


Levourne Passiri, World Vision's national director in Chad, reported that our office in N'Djamena had been attacked but that all team members remain safe for the time being. Though our programs in the central and southern parts of the country also are safe, they have been disrupted by security concerns that have forced staffers to restrict their movements.

It is feared that a widespread humanitarian crisis could result if the negotiated cease-fire does not last; this scenario could trigger factional fighting that would displace more civilians.

Mariam shares these concerns. For now, it is not wise for her family to return to N'Djamena because the situation remains uncertain.

"You cannot believe how the gunshots have affected my 3-year-old granddaughter, Noora," she concludes. "I want to be sure that she recovers from the trauma before going back to N'Djamena."

World Vision has worked in Chad since 1985 and currently serves some 400,000 people there. Our programs in this African country focus on health and nutrition, education, HIV prevention, water and sanitation, microloans to assist poor entrepreneurs, and agricultural improvements to help prevent food shortages.

Learn More


>> View additional information about Chad and World Vision's work in the country.
>> Read a Reuters update on the current situation in Chad.
>> Read a Christianity Today article about World Vision's aid work among Chadian refugees.

Three ways you can help

>> Pray for the safety of children and families in World Vision's programs in Chad. Pray also for our staff members, that they may be able to continue their development work, regardless of the outcome of the fighting, and quickly provide basic assistance to survivors.
>> Donate to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help World Vision continue to quickly and effectively respond to sudden-onset crises around the world, such as the recent fighting in Chad's capital city and refugee crisis in Cameroon.
>> Give monthly to help provide critical care to children around the world who are terrorized by war and conflict. Become a Child Crisis Partner.

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