$1.1 bn debt relief for Chad to help health, education: NGO

A cyclist passes in front of a high school, on May 6, 2006, in N'djamena, Chad (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - A move by the World Bank and IMF to help cut $1.1 billion from Chad's debt burden will help it develop key health and education services, an anti-poverty group said Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Bank and the International Monetary Fund announced support for the debt relief move, saying multilateral creditors could forgive $1.0 billion and bilateral and commercial creditors could cut $100 million from the African country's debt load.

Both said that the Chad government had nearly met all qualifications for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, making it eligible for sweeping debt relief.

Jubilee USA Network, which fights for debt relief for the poorest countries, said forgiving the country's borrowings was a key way of helping the Chad people.

"Debt relief for Chad means an investment in education and healthcare," said Jubilee executive director Eric LeCompte in a statement.

"Debt doesn't exist in a vacuum. Chad has immense challenges and its debt burden worsens all of them. Less debt means more hope," he said.

One of the world's poorest countries, Chad's debt woes mounted during its 2005-2010 civil war, and it currently struggles with other conflicts spilling over its borders and 260,000 Sudanese refugees, according to Jubilee.

The World Bank said attaining HIPC status -- which requires a poor country's government to take steps to show commitments to basic governance and financial needs -- opens "a new development era for Chad."

"It acknowledges the many efforts accomplished by Chad to exit from a difficult decade of conflict and instability, and allows refocusing attention and resources on Chad’s forward looking emergence agenda," said Paul Noumba Um, the World Bank country director for Chad.