New violence on Chadian-Sudanese border threatens humanitarian crisis – UN

24 March 2006
Sudanese refugees at water point in eastern Chad

A violent cocktail of regular and rebel forces on both sides of the Chadian-Sudanese frontier combined with an increasing number of incursions by armed groups has forced thousands of people from their homes and could seriously impede humanitarian aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

A violent cocktail of regular and rebel forces on both sides of the Chadian-Sudanese frontier combined with an increasing number of incursions by armed groups has forced thousands of people from their homes and could seriously impede humanitarian aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“We are at an extremely delicate stage in Chad - right on the edge,” WFP Chad Country Director Stefano Porretti said of the area, where the agency is already feeding more than 207,400 Sudanese refugees who have fled three years of vicious fighting between government, pro-government militias and rebel forces in the Darfur region.

“Guarantees of both financial commitment to our operations and security in the region are essential to help stave off an even more serious humanitarian crisis, which we could have on our hands within weeks,” he added in an appeal to international donors.

Most refugees have been in Chad since 2004, but a fresh influx from Sudan has arrived over the past few months. An initial WFP assessment of the most affected areas in the eastern Chad border zone indicated that most people still had substantial food stocks that they can access, largely because the last harvest was one of the best in recent years.

But with the annual ‘hunger season’ approaching, WFP said there were very real fears that people would soon require essential humanitarian assistance. The most immediate need reported was for the safety of civilians in the prevailing insecurity.

“It is clear that the security situation along the border has deteriorated in recent weeks,” Mr. Porretti said. “WFP is coordinating with partners, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to ensure the situation is closely monitored. But the longer the insecurity in the area persists, the more serious the situation will become.”

While it is difficult to assess the magnitude of needs because of current insecurity, WFP estimates that several thousand people will require assistance. “Financially, our operation in eastern Chad is already clinging on by its fingertips - significant new requirements will require significant new resources from our donors,” Mr. Porretti said.

The annual mid-year ‘hunger season’ will overlap closely with the annual rains, rendering most of the roads in eastern Chad completely impassable. WFP is making major efforts to pre-position as much food as possible ahead of the rains, an effort that depends heavily on speedy confirmation of donor contributions to ensure that food arrives early enough to be transported onwards to the camps.

WFP also warned today that its food stocks in Chad were being further stretched by a new wave of refugees fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) – some 46,000 already and still growing. A serious break in supplies is expected by June.

The agency’s humanitarian air service, which provides a critical lifeline for UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff and supplies to arrive in eastern Chad, only reachable by air during the rainy season, is also facing suspension very shortly if further funds are not forthcoming.

 

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