"We felt very welcome and accepted.”

Families displaced by conflict find new homes and new friends in Chad

April 5, 2024
Woman holding a football cup

Solange proudly displays her trophy. Since taking up soccer, she has not only made friends, but also discovered a new talent.

Photo: UNDP Chad

Solange Memadji, 32, from Kassalaré in the Hadjer-Lamis region of Chad, grew up with three brothers and sisters. She worked as a farmer and trader, growing rice, tomatoes, and onions before her life was turned upside down.

"Everything changed radically from June 2021, when my village came under constant attack from armed groups," she says. Murders, kidnapping and cattle thefts were frequent in the surrounding area, particularly in neighbouring villages such as Mittériné.

"One day, early in the morning, we heard the terrifying sound of gunshots. That's when we decided to abandon our farms and possessions and leave. We fled out of an overwhelming, visceral fear.” Solange and her family made the arduous journey to Baltram, a town 28 kilometres from Kassalaré. "My family and I set off on foot, and we had a donkey to help us carry some of our belongings.”

Baltram has welcomed 5,600 people seeking refuge since 2021. Among them are 2,672 women and 1,802 young people and children, mainly from Kassalaré, Roumaye and Tamouraye, all of which have been deeply affected by the armed conflict in Chad’s south western Hadjer-Lamis province.

For many in these conflict-affected regions, land is of immense value. Not only deprived of their land, one of the main challenges facing the displaced people in Baltram is settling them into their host community and ensuring they can begin farming again.

This is why the Chadian government, with the valuable support of the Japanese government and within the framework of the UNDP Regional Stabilization Facility for Liptako-Gourma and Lake Chad, has launched several initiatives to resettle displaced families.

The aim is to encourage social integration and cohesion, with particular attention paid to young people and women.

Local authorities, heads of security forces and traditional chiefs known as "Boulamas", are at the heart of the initiative. Among other things, they are  trained in conflict management and in preventing gender-based violence.

Local leaders take part in civil-military workshops to strengthen their ability to manage conflict and promote stability. This comprehensive approach addresses the challenges of displacement and strengthens collaboration and security.

Since 2021, more than 700 people have taken part in cash-for-work programmes and received equipment for agriculture and fishing. Over 500 people, more than half of them women, have received cash grants, and 107 people, including members of the security forces, have taken part in training and awareness-raising on civil-military dialogue, human rights and civilian protection. Solar street lamps in Baltram and Maloumri have not only lit up the towns, they have made them safer, especially for women. 

People putting a poster on the wall

Baltram has welcomed hundreds of families displaced by armed conflict to the Hadjer-Lamis province. It is one of the most exposed regions to violent extremism due to its proximity to Lake Chad.

Photo: UNDP Chad
Two men listening

More than 100 people have taken part in training and awareness-raising on civil-military dialogue, human rights and the protection of civilians, as part of the UNDP's Regional Stabilization Facility.

Photo: UNDP Chad

The programme has made all the difference for Solange. "After working so hard, leaving our home was an extremely difficult decision to make. Fortunately, in Baltram we felt very welcome and accepted. We received land and equipment to help us restart farming. Today, I can grow corn and a little rice, thus regaining a semblance of the normal life I had in Kassalaré. I also have access to a small school, which was not the case in Kassalaré."

These efforts also focused on social activities to foster unity. Workshops on conflict prevention were organized, as well as  soccer matches between host communities and displaced people. 

When Solange took up the offer to take to the pitch, she did it to help to make friends, but she also discovered a new talent.

"When I was invited to join the team, I immediately accepted because it was an opportunity to promote positive exchanges with our host community. It was my first time playing soccer. Usually, it's the boys who play. Thanks to soccer, I felt we were becoming a team, and that was incredible. I even became captain and won several tournaments.”

The success of Solange and her team earned them a cup from the Hadjer-Lamis regional authorities. And she has not only regained a sense of normalcy but has also become a catalyst for positive change within her new town.

"This gives me hope for a better future, not only for myself, but for our whole community," she says.