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In possible boon to refugees, UN study finds signs of water sources in Chad

In possible boon to refugees, UN study finds signs of water sources in Chad

Refugee children waiting for the water bladder to be filled
The United Nations refugee agency announced today that a just-completed ground-breaking study indicates there may be hidden water sources under eastern Chad, a potential solution to the serious water shortages in an area home to about 200,000 Sudanese who fled there from their country’s troubled Darfur region.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva that “significant quantities of water” have been discovered each times wells or boreholes were dug in areas suggested by radar and satellite images taken in a survey.

Humanitarian workers have begun to dig for water at sites in three UNHCR camps in Chad – Oure Cassoni, Touloum and Iridimi – Ms. Pagonis said, adding the survey has also helped determine whether potential sites for new camps are located near areas with high water potential.

A lack of adequate water is the biggest difficulty facing UNHCR and aid agencies in eastern Chad, where Sudanese refugees have been gathering since last year to Arab militia attacks and fighting between Government forces and two rebel groups.

While the annual rainy season is currently in progress in eastern Chad and neighbouring Darfur, the area itself remains extremely arid with relatively little vegetation.

Ms. Pagonis said the three-week survey and study – the first time such technology has been used in a humanitarian emergency operation – was conducted with the UN satellite imaging service and the company Radar Technologies France.

The study used images taken from radar, satellite and the United States space shuttle to identify land formations, geological features, elevation and the sloping of the ground to determine areas with the highest potential for ground water.

Ms. Pagonis also said UNHCR has transferred more than 14,000 refugees from the border zone, where militia attacks remain a threat, to the camp at Oure Cassoni in the past three weeks, taking the number of people transferred further inland to the agency’s nine camps to more than 142,000.

Meanwhile in Darfur, the World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to airdrop food to almost 72,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) next month. Heavy rains in the area have led to the temporary closures of a regional airport and several roads.