Raising Awareness for the Country of Chad Chapter I: Clean Water Crisis
Most of us might be familiar with slogans such as water is life, water changes life, “you are 60% water. Save 60% of yourself” etc. Yet, several reports remark that more than 748 million people do not have access to clean water worldwide. The United Nations global study informs us that unsafe water accounts for around 80 percent of diseases and 30 percent of deaths in developing countries throughout the world. Experts note that 3.4 million people die each year from water related disease. To put things in perspective, this is like the size of Los Angeles population dying every year. According to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) almost 2,000 children die daily from illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera caused by dirty water and unhygienic living conditions. Chad suffers from these water borne and based diseases every year as well.
As reflected in the above picture, its unthinkable the water villagers or mainly people in remote areas of Chad are forced to drink. According to the country demographic and health survey of 2009 (Enquête Démographique et de Santé au Tchad-EDST) only 36% of the entire population has access to clean water. In various places, people use water from traditional wells, wadis (dried-out river beds, pound) as their source of water. Due to water shortage and scarce, women and children from rural areas spend hours travelling to the water sources carrying heavy containers (usually calabashes, jerry cans, plastic bottles, canisters etc.) just to fetch for water that is often unclean. Water from some of these sources has a murky brown color with major health risks. It’s not only contaminated by sand and dirt but sometimes with animal feces too. The consequences to this uncleaned water along with contaminated food result in dangerous outbreak of hepatitis E and others diseases mentioned above leading to several deaths every year. Though, rural communities are the most affected, even Ndjamena the capital city suffers from water shortage, unsafe water and from the related diseases.
Despite this clean water crisis along with the borne-diseases and lack of effective sanitation services causing so many deaths among the population each year, the regime makes political claims to portray Ndjamena, the capital city as the “vitrine of Africa” or the face of Africa. This is an unrealistic dream or a utopia for a lot of us and for those acquainted with the country conditions. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, but it’s realistically impossible given where this regime priorities lie and its record in the 26 years of the ruling of our country. The development, in my humble opinion, is health and education first. Let’s work to bring clean water to all Chadians and tackle these diseases which are the main cause of preventable illness and premature deaths, with children being particularly vulnerable.
With all that being said how could we have met the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2015 when we are still far from providing sustainable access to clean water to the whole country or at the least to the vast majority of the population? Even though it’s frustrating, it makes sense why we have met none of the MDGs. To these days, Chad’s social development indicators have barely moved and we are listed at the bottom of basically all the UN’s development index reports.
In 26 years of ruling, there hasn’t been a committed economic development agenda clearly aimed at addressing the water crisis in Chad. According to several reports, this water crisis like many others problems is solvable but bad governance has rendered this impossible. With Chad entering the group of oil production countries in 2003, there was hope back then. Unfortunately, that hope has turned into mirage and simple disappointment. Access to clean water, which is the main factor to improving the maternal and child health, and a key to eradicating poverty in Chad, remains a myth.
It’s a secret to no one in the country that the government of Chad is plagued with corruption and known for its mismanagement of resources. Most of the oil revenue has been spent on the military equipment. Chad is known today as the most equipped and strongest army in Africa while most Chadians live on less than $ 1.00/day. A lot of people live below the poverty line, suffer malnutrition and lack basic health care services because they don’t exist. It’s important to point that the army on which most resources are allocated is mainly composed of the president family and it’s used for propaganda purposes. The regime uses the military very often to repress any peaceful protests. Because Chad army has intervened several times in the fight against terrorism in the region, western countries (USA and France) perceive president Deby as an ally they should support by all means despite the country demand for change after 26 years of one of the worst dictatorships in our history. Fight against terrorism has overshadowed the cry from Chadian people to be free from a dictator blindly supported by the overall international community. The country money and resources are considered property of a tiny group of people, especially the president family and circle of close friends. We live in Chad a very strange situation where certain individuals are wealthier than the whole country. For instance, last year the president’s younger brother had to lend the government money to pay its civil servants. Can you believe that? Only in Chad such a practice exists.
As I mentioned in the previous article, no protest is authorized in Chad under the current regime. People have no right to protest. In the region of Fianga in South of Chad, a group of women carrying canisters on their heads walked to the governor residency one day just to ask for clean water. They were fired on by the military. This was a peaceful protest from mothers who chose to express their concerns for the most basic need because their children were suffering and dying from water related diseases. This was not a protest politically motivated to encounter such a level of violence from the military forces. But this was exactly what happened. It again shows the ruthlessness and brutality of this regime. What the people of chad are living is beyond describable.
Just before I began writing this piece, I talked to one of my fellow Chadians here in the states who has been very active doing what he can to provide certain areas in South of Chad with clean water. With the assistance of a few American friends, they have been able to supply certain villages with clean water. They did help dig wells, train villagers on the basic techniques of making chlorine water to treat their wells and any other sources of water. This year, they sent about 20 chlorine generators to Chad. As I am typing this, the equipment has been confiscated at the Chad international airport by the customs department because they asked for a huge amount of fee before they can release the equipment. Hearing the news, our fellow is very discouraged and decided to just leave the equipment with them because he does not have the money to pay for the exorbitant fee required. He’s embarrassed and doesn’t know how to report what is happening that to the team that help with this project. This shows how this administration is not there to help the people of Chad but to destroy and ruin them instead. This is an initiative to help where the government has failed. Yet, the administration comes not support but to stand of way of providing clean water for its people. This is just an example among many that shows that the claim for change from people of Chad for change is legit and deserves all the attention and support needed.
Facing a regime that has been oppressing its people for 26 years and totally incapable of supplying the basic needs despite the country oil production since 2003 its time for us to stand and fight for change. Please join us in spreading the word. Communication is power and informing others is my way of resisting. And we all know every drop in the ocean counts. For those interested in knowing more about the water project I mentioned earlier, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will put you in touch with that team. Thanks and stay tuned for the next chapter.
RAISING AWARENESS FOR THE COUNTRY OF CHAD
I am so sorry for the terrible image I am sharing here. Things have gotten so bad in my home country that I decided to break the silence and share what is burning in my heart with you. Again, I am so sorry, but please bear with me. For those who follow me on Facebook, I have been very active lately posting things there, but mainly in French. However, I am going to do my best to post updates in English for a larger audience going forward. For those close to me and those who know me, I am not a good facebooker one would say until recently. However, my interest has shifted because Facebook can be a great platform to voice a cause and raise awareness for social justice. It’s easy to reach a wide audience so why not embrace it!?
Last weekend has been a tough one for people in our home country of Chad. We are inviting you to pray for us. The people of Chad are standing against a dictator who has been ruling for 26 years. None of the elections we have had since he came into power after a coup d’état in 1990 have been free or fair. The last presidential elections were held on April 10, 2016 and were known as the most rigged elections in our country history. Chadian people have been fed up with the current regime, and have voted impressively, hoping to put an end to 26 years of one of the worst dictatorships in the world. As we are learning daily about the nightmares my people face, 2 words come to my mind: Oppression and Humiliation. We are a landlocked country and one of the poorest ones in the world. We do not gain much attention on the international scene or in the media unfortunately. When we are known, it’s only for bad things or disasters because of media biases. We literally occupy the bottom of all major development indicators worldwide. Here is the contrast: the country is rich because we have a lot of mineral resources such as petroleum, uranium, natron, kaolin, fish (Lake Chad), gold, limestone, sand and gravel, salt etc. Yet, we are one of the poorest countries in the world because a small class or group of people hijack all the resources, keep them to themselves, and continually mismanage them.
Worse, we don’t receive much help from the international community either. By aid, we are not talking about development aid. We mean voices to condemn human rights abuse and violations committed towards the people on a daily basis. We are not a priority for the international community or, one would argue, for most Human rights organizations. There is no democracy in Chad. Basic human rights are violated on a regular basis. The only language the current regime knows is violence. Pacific protests are strictly prohibited. Those taking part in protests face bloody repressions. Because August, 8 of this year was the despot inauguration for another 5 years mandate, the Chadian people took it to the street despite the government ban of any protest movement and public gatherings during this time. There were several injured as the government forces opened fire on those protesting. Some of the victims are still fighting for their lives. The picture I shared was one of the victims gunned down by the military forces. The people, especially the youth, are determined for change. The 5 years to come are going to be harsh for us, but with God on our side and because of our determination as country to be free, we’ll get there. Two famous quotes from 2 well known personalities in the world guided me while putting in writing the thoughts I am sharing here:
Desmond Tutu said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Martin Luther King Jr noted “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
With that being said, we are not going to be silent anymore. We will speak up for our country and our people where we are. The good thing is we have social media. It’s time to act and now. We don’t have to wait for international media to do so or reluctant human right organizations to do that on our behalf. Many Chadians understand this and are doing the best they can with the means they have and where they are.
In this perspective, we would like those interested in learning more about the county’s conditions and those interested in social justice to join us in this fight. In concertation with other Chadians, I’ll be providing more information as time comes. We thought if we spread the words, give people a chance to learn more, we can come together and impact change. The people from Chad deserve better. Creating awareness about the country’s conditions will render a huge service to the people of Chad who are suffering all forms of injustice. Our goal is to inform people about what’s really happening on the ground and work together and see where the journey takes us. If you are interested, please share this message with others.