Since the dynamic between Chad and Sudan changed for the better, Chad has worked with regional neighbours and France to try and halt the expansion of Islamic militant groups (including Boko Haram) in the area. Although things are still far from ideal, for the first time in years there are some glimmers of hope for the future. Infant mortality was a massive 9.1% during the 2005–2009 period, but between 2010–2014 that fell to 7.2%, and over the same period child mortality dropped from 7.9% to 6.5%. Surprisingly, for such a subsistence economy, education is looked upon favourably and literacy stands at 40%. Freedom of speech is also fiercely, if somewhat vainly, defended.
Despite this light at the end of the tunnel, Chad still has a long way to go. The oil-dependent economy has been hit in recent years by falling worldwide oil prices, and Chad is currently ranked 185 out of 188 countries according to the UN Human Development Index, with 47% of the population living below the poverty line.
The north of Chad is populated by people of Arab descent, as well as nomadic Peul-Fulani and Toubou people. The black Africans are in the majority in the south – the Sara are by far the biggest ethnic group (25% of the population) and have traditionally dominated business and the civil service. The difference between these two broad groups is profound – the Christian (35% of the population) and animist southerners are mostly peasant farmers, tilling fertile land, while the northern Muslims (54%) are desert-dwelling pastoralists.
Most of the crafts you'll see in Chad are imported from Nigeria and Cameroon, though the leatherwork and pottery is usually made locally and many of the large wool rugs come from Abéché and other desert towns.
Much of Chad is desert or semidesert and desertification is a serious issue – as is the drying up of Lake Chad. There are fingers of green in the south though, and the small population for the country's size means that there's quite a lot of room to breathe in Chad.
Environmental issues are given little thought in Chad, and across the vast majority of the country wildlife is hounded and poached. But there is one bright spot in an otherwise pretty bleak picture. Thanks to serious government support and funding and expertise from African Parks (www.african-parks.com), Zakouma National Park in the southeast of the country contains large herds of elephants, as well as primates, lions, giraffes, wildebeests, a wide variety of antelopes, and weird and wonderful birdlife.