We arrived here this morning on another World Food Program flight, piloted by Afrikaners. It’s just bizarre to be on a small plane full of French speakers being told the safety features by a pale man speaking English. Especially when you’re in the exit row, and he explains to you the procedure and the same to the person across the aisle who has no idea what he’s saying. Perhaps many things in the humanitarian aid world feel this way—going through procedures when you know that they are next to meaningless. Perhaps I’m just tired.
After arriving we drove through Sarh, Chad’s second city, and then made our way past acres and acres of sugar cane, and are now ensconced in the national sugar company’s guest house across the road. We spent a short time in Yaroungou, a camp of refugees from Central African Republic (just south of here), and then made our way to meet the local UNHCR representative. A big, kind man from Rwanda, he welcomed us with coffee and informed us of the security situation (robberies, but no rebels), and his Protection Officer, an elegant woman from Congo I believe, informed us of the protection cases they had identified, and let us know that we would be meeting them tomorrow. Of course, we had only sort of asked to meet with them—our purpose is to get a broader idea of refugees’ perspective on vulnerability, not talk to only those who need help. Of course, like so many things on this trip, communication was garbled along the way.
We left a colleague in Abeche, hoping to get her down to the camps we missed when the rebels cut them off. Now that the rebels have been pushed back, operations are back up and running. Unfortunately, there are still delays, and if she gets one day of interviewing it will be our luck. One of the most frustrating pieces of doing this type of work is the delays and changes of schedule. Even though you can build redundancy into your design, something can come up to set you back. At this point I don’t think we can collect the kind of information that will add much to the discussion of refugees and protection. So it is that some projects do not succeed. I will write a post-mortem so that others can learn from it, but at the moment, I just need to lay down on my leopard-print sheets.