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In 1960, Chad won its independence from France and began a 30-year period of intense civil unrest that included invasions by Libya. Even though peace was declared in 1990, periodic outbreaks of violence continued among rebels in the north. In 2005, amidst claims that Chad was sponsoring rebel fighters in Darfur in western Sudan, guerilla fighters from the Sudan joined northern Chadian guerillas in fighting Chadian government troops, attempting to unseat the controversial President Idriss Deby. Tens of thousands of people in Chad and the Sudan have been killed in the prolonged battle that has spread to other countries including Uganda. Around 250,000 black Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad, but in April 2006, the government threatened to expel them.
Less than 3 percent of the land in Chad is arable, but more than 80 percent of the labor force is engaged in subsistence agriculture and livestock production. Some 60,000 Chadian farmers have been forced to leave their homes to escape violence, diminishing the food supply that is essential to survival for poor Chadians. Oil reserves in southern Chad have been estimated at two billion barrels; and since 2000, foreign investment in the oil industry has boosted the struggling economy. Other export products consist of cotton, cattle, and gum Arabic.
Despite increasing oil revenues, Chad is still heavily dependent on foreign aid and investment capital for survival. However, in January 2006, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank, suspended all loans to Chad when the government backed down on its promise that most of the revenues from the controversial Chad-Cameroon pipeline would be used for poverty reduction. With a per capita income of $1,800, Chad is ranked 185 of 232 countries in world incomes. Eighty percent of the people live on less than $1 a day in abject poverty, and 34 percent are seriously undernourished. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Reports rank Chad 173 of 232 countries on overall quality of life issues.
Landlocked, Chad shares borders with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Nigeria as well as a 1,360 kilometer border with the Sudan. The broad, arid plains of central Chad give way to desert in the north, mountains in the northwest, and lowlands in the south. Elevations range from 160 meters at Djourab Depression to 3,415 meters at Emi Koussi. Southern Chad experiences a tropical climate, but the climate of the north is desert. In addition to petroleum, Chad’s natural resources include uranium, natron, kaolin, fish in Lake Chad, gold, limestone, sand and gravel, and salt. Locust plagues and droughts may occur throughout Chad, and the north experiences the harmattan, hot, dry, dusty season winds that serve to speed up the processes of soil erosion and desertification.
The inability of the Chadian government to guarantee adequate supplies of potable water and proper sanitation facilities in rural areas creates an environment in which disease and soil and water pollution flourish among the population of 9,900,000. One-fourth of Chadians lives in urban areas, where 40 percent of the residents have access to safe drinking water. In rural areas, less than a third have such access. While 30 percent of urban residents have access to improved sanitation, rural residents have no access at all. Consequently, Chadians have a very high risk of contracting food and waterborne diseases, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever, as well as vectorborne diseases such as malaria and respiratory diseases such as meningococcal meningitis. Chad suffers from an HIVIAIDS rate of 4.8 percent that has killed 18,000 people. It is estimated that 200,000 are currently living with the disease. Because Chadians are so vulnerable to disease, the country experiences low life expectancy (47.52 years) and population growth (2.93 percent) and high infant mortality (91.45 deaths per 1,000 live births) and death rates (16.38 deaths per 1,000 population). Chadian women give birth to an average of 6.7 children. The people of Chad speak three of four major African languages, and the population lacks cultural cohesion. Only 56 percent of males and 39.3 percent of females over the age of 15 can read and write either French or Arabic. These factors combine to limit the dissemination of health and environmental information.
Miserable Environmental Record
In 2006, a study by scientists at Yale University ranked Chad at the bottom of 132 countries on environmental performance with scores drastically be-low the comparable income and geographic groups. Particularly low scores were received in the areas of air quality and water resources, and Chad received no points at all in the category of environmental health. Just over 10 percent of Chad’s land area is forested, but the government has protected only 0.1 percent of total land area. Of 134 mammal species identified in Chad, 17 are endangered, as are five of 141 bird species. About two-thirds of the land area in Chad is covered by desert, and the desert is expanding by three to five kilometers each year.
The international community is assisting the government of Chad in poverty reduction efforts. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanism, and Habitat, environmental initiatives include the Project for Conservation and Management of Natural Resources and the UNDP-financed Integrated Plan for Water Development and Management. Such measures are designed to promote sustainable development and management. The Chadian government has ratified the following international agreements on the environment: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands. Agreements on Law of the Sea and Marine Dumping have been signed but not ratified.
- Timothy Doyle, Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds: A Global Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
- Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
- Valentine Udoh James, Africa’s Ecology: Sustaining the Biological and Environmental Diversity of a Continent (McFarland, 1993).