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Aid Worker Calls Situation in Chad a ‘Catastrophe’


The strife in Chad is a “catastrophe” that is largely ignored by the American news media and therefore the mainstream consciousness, said Gonzalo Sanchez-Teran, a Jesuit Relief Services project director working in the central African country, during a lecture at Fordham University on June 21.

Speaking to humanitarian aid workers from around the world taking part in Fordham’s International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) Program at the Lincoln Center campus, Sanchez-Teran described Chad as a failing state based on its political, economic and social situation. He told the gathering that not only is the country led by someone who seized power in a military coup, it is involved in a regional war with Sudan and the Central African Republic, numerous tribal wars and a civil war. And the country is now home to more than 235,000 Sudanese refugees and 172,000 internally displaced people in camps throughout the country.

Moreover, the country has the lowest rate of education in Africa, Sanchez-Teran said, ranking 100 out of 102 developing countries in the Human Poverty Index, and the Transparency International Index listed it as the most corrupt nation in the world in the 2005. “You can’t get much worse than being a Chadian,” he said.

Sanchez-Teran was critical of France and United States and their involvement in the Chadian crisis. He said that the United States gave Chad $2.2 million in military aid in 2006 to fight international terrorism. “The problem is not the amount, the problem is the message you send to the government and to the people,” said Sanchez-Teran. “What arrive there are weapons and soldiers, not the humanitarian reports.”

Sanchez-Teran was also critical of the international aid community, which he said has failed in Chad. “We should have answered better,” he said, citing many examples where the aid community was not able to work together to assist refugees and those displaced by the violence. “We have not done our work. … I don’t think we are doing our best.”

The month-long IIHA diploma program, which draws students from organizations throughout the world, is designed to help aid professionals function more effectively in times of “complex emergencies,” including wars and natural disasters.


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