Midjiguita, 17 July 2023 – The attack occurred at midnight on the first day of Ramadan.
“They came and destroyed our district, forcing us to flee under the cover of darkness,” Daoud remembers.
The 40-year-old father of four is sitting on a traditional bed under a canopy in his freshly built compound in Midjiguita, a small village in Eastern Chad whose population has spiked in recent months due to the arrival of people displaced by violence in Sudan.
That night, Daoud fled Tindelti with his wife and four children in the early hours of the morning with nothing but few personal belongings. Like thousands other Chadians living in Western Sudan, he had become a casualty of the deadly violence that engulfed the country since mid-April 2023.
The UN estimates that more than 180,000 people have been displaced from Sudan into Chad as a result of the worsening violence. According to the latest figures, almost 40,000 of them are Chadian returnees like Daoud for whom “homecoming” was unexpected.
Born in Am-Zoer, in Chad’s Wadi Fira province, Daoud and his family migrated to Sudan in the 1980s as the country battled one of its worst famines.
“I have lived in Sudan for more than 30 years, I even got married there,” Daoud says, reminiscing his years living in the vast country.
In Tendelti, he worked as a seasonal artisanal gold miner, travelling regularly between the north of the country and Khartoum for business. But with the war, this has become a thing of the past and the future looks uncertain as there are few options to get by for Chadian returnees in Eastern Chad.
“Although they have ancestral ties to Chad, returnees have been dispossessed due to the violence and need support to sustainably integrate into their new communities,” says Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chad’s Chief of Mission.
Like Daoud, Mariam, 45, relied on the kindness of community members and old family relations to find a place to stay in Midjiguita.
“The materials for this house do not cost a lot; it is just clay and water which are easy to find, and which others helped me get but that is all I have,” she says, pointing to the single-room house of clay she built with her children.
A widow and mother of five, she traded cattle in Tendelti before the violence reached her doorstep, forcing her to “return home” to Chad. But today, she is struggling to survive and is worried about her family’s future.
“I don’t have food to eat here; all I need is support to have a few heads of sheep so I can provide something for my family,” she adds.
Before the influx of displaced persons into Eastern Chad, the provinces of Ouaddaï, Sila and Wadi-Fira were already faced with a displacement crisis and were among some of the country’s most vulnerable provinces to socio-economic shocks linked to the compounded effects of underdevelopment and extreme weather and environmental degradation which affected local livelihoods.
With the Sudan crisis, the prices of goods have significantly increased as trade between Chad and Sudan has been brought to a halt. As more people continue to arrive in Eastern Chad, local communities are beginning to feel the pressure of the sudden influx on their already limited resources.
“Chadian returnees are returning to communities that are already fragile,” says IOM’s Anne Schaefer. “We are deeply worried at the scale of the returns – which has already passed our estimations, but also the limited funding we have received to provide emergency and long-term assistance.”
For Daoud and Mariam, difficult decisions lie ahead. On one hand, they hope that the situation in Sudan will calm down and pave a way for their safe return in their land of adoption. On the other, as the situation in Darfur worsens and the spectre of a prolonged crisis appears, they may have to find a way to rebuild their lives in the land of their ancestors.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Sudan, IOM works with the Government of Chad and humanitarian partners to register the new arrivals and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to returnees and third-country nationals in the form of multipurpose cash assistance, protection, and relocation. So far, more than 22,400 people have benefitted from IOM’s emergency response to the Sudan crisis in Chad.
This story was written by François-Xavier Ada, IOM Chad’s Media and Communications Officer.