Fleeing escalating violence between Government forces and so far unidentified armed groups in northern Central African Republic (CAR), some 8,500 people, mainly women and children, have arrived in Chad, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
The agency has rushed in emergency supplies, such as high-protein biscuits, plastic sheeting, blankets and cooking sets, for the refugees, some of whom are staying with impoverished families around the Chadian town of Yambodo, near the CAR border, Georges Menze, the head of the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Gore, southern Chad, said.
"Most of them told us they fled their homes by night because of the insecurity, which has intensified since June 3," he said.
Noting that seasonal rains were complicating the refugees' situation, Mr. Menze said, "Some are staying with host families, others have started building makeshift shelters with wood and straw. They are foraging for fruits in the wild. Food is scarce for everyone because of the drought and poor harvest."
A team of staff members from UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) went to the area to assess the needs of the newcomers and to find out how best to coordinate with the local authorities in helping them.
Southern Chad already hosts 30,000 CAR refugees in two UNHCR camps. Most of them arrived after the March 2003 military coup that brought President François Bozizé to power. He was elected to the position last month.
Eastern Chad hosts more than 210,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur in 12 UNHCR camps.