Ahead of rains, UN staff rush to relocate refugees in southern Chad

Ahead of rains, UN staff rush to relocate refugees in southern Chad

Central African refugees in Maro, Chad's Gore region
United Nations staff in remote southern Chad are rushing to relocate an estimated 10,000 refugees who fled unrest in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the past month, and are already showing signs of malnutrition, as the onset of the rainy season threatens to cut them off from all aid.

“Our Chadian partners say that by mid-July, wide areas will likely be cut off by flooding,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva today. “So we will need to move fast.”

UNHCR is deploying 11 logisticians, field officers, protection officers and extra drivers to relocate the 10,000 refugees, many of whom fled with nothing and are now scattered among 17 villages near the Chadian town of Gore. One option being considered is to move them to Amboko camp near Gore, which already hosts some 13,000 CAR refugees, could hold up to 27,000 people and could provide health care services, water and sanitation facilities.

Pending relocation, UNHCR has been distributing emergency plastic sheeting, blankets and high-protein biscuits provided by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Local villagers are also offering what help they can. The refugees have been living in flimsy, makeshift shelters built of leaves and sticks.

They brought no food with them, and many children and women are showing signs of malnourishment. They are eating whatever they can find in the bush – mainly roots, wild fruit and leaves. They are drinking local river water and there is no proper sanitation.

The latest refugees fled northern CAR during the first three weeks of June following an incident between Government forces and unidentified armed groups. Although no new attacks have been reported since 3 June, they say they have no intention – at this point at least – of returning anytime soon, citing fear of further violence.

There are already 30,000 CAR refugees in southern Chad. The majority of them arrived in 2003 after a military coup. Chad is also hosting more than 200,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan who are currently housed in 12 camps in the eastern part of the country.