The youngest of Sara Mohammed’s children is underweight and listless. IFRC
by Faye Callaghan
Sara Mohammed has five children at home and no way to feed them. Her husband died and her two eldest sons are on their way back to Chad from Libya. They used to work there and sent money every month to keep the family going. But since the revolution they don’t feel safe. “They tell me the Libyans think all black Africans are mercenaries and they worry they will be arrested,” explains Sara. An estimated 86,000 Chadians have recently returned from Libya, with more expected.
“Life is difficult for us now. Last year there was not much rain and then the crickets arrived and destroyed our crops and make our animals sick. Now we have nothing.” Sara and her children live in the small village of Kermele in Northern Chad’s Kanem province. The wind rips across the sandy plains where nothing grows but small, scraggy bushes. Food for camels and goats, but not for humans.
When her crops failed and her goats started to become sick she sold the remaining healthy ones to buy maize for meals. Now it has run out and she lives off the generosity of others in the village. “Even though it’s hard to live here, we can’t move. This is our land and we’ve been here for many years. Besides, we don’t have the money to move and we have elderly people with us that can’t travel. Moving isn’t the solution. We just want to be able to have a good harvest so we have food,” said Sara.
The Red Cross of Chad visited Kermele village to assess the nutritional status of children under two years of age. Volunteers measure their arm circumferences and height. Many were malnourished and have been referred to a mobile health clinic that will visit the village to provide nutritional support. The Red Cross will also provide food to the families to enable them to stay healthy and ensure food provided for the infants doesn’t get shared with others.
“We are providing the food rations here as this village is so far from other services,” said Idrissa Traore, IFRC food security delegate in Chad. “But the real solution is to help people who live in places like this to find an alternative livelihood. We will launch an emergency appeal and hope to provide people with goats which they can breed and then sell. Also the goats will provide milk for the family.”
Other activities, like supporting small businesses and providing seeds and supplies to ensure a better harvest, will also help people like Sara have a better outlook for their long term food security. Living in the Sahel has always meant a precarious balance for hundreds of communities who have developed strategies to cope with failed rains. But the combination of poor rains, insect infestations and the sudden drop in remittances from Libya has left thousands of people on the brink of collapse.