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UN agency moves first convoy of Chadian refugees to new camp in Darfur

UN agency moves first convoy of Chadian refugees to new camp in Darfur

Due to the bleak, insecure conditions along the Chad-Sudan border, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has moved nearly 500 Chadian refugees and their pack animals to a new camp further inside in Sudan's West Darfur region.

As result of military action, insurgency and banditry, at least 13,000 Chadians have fled their homes and taken refuge inside Sudan since the beginning of the year, with around 5,000 refugees settled temporarily in Habila, southeast of the West Darfur capital of El Geneina, and most of them have indicated they want to be relocated to the new camp at Um Shalaya, which can receive 10,000 people.

"Some 3,000 of the refugees at Habila are living in a wadi, or dry riverbed, with no clean water, no sanitation and no proper shelter," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said today in Geneva. "Priority will be given to some of the recent arrivals, particularly children, who are suffering the ill effects of not getting enough to eat."

A convoy of eight passenger trucks and one bus carried the first group of 494 refugees to the new camp, with a military escort provided by the African Union. Three additional trucks carried the refugees' possessions and four trucks carried their donkeys, whose refusal to board had caused the convoy to leave three hours late.

Together with the International Organization form Migration (IOM), UNHCR plans to organize three similar convoys per week to accommodate all those who wish to move.

A rebel assault on the Chadian capital of capital N'Djamena in April further exacerbated insecurity along the border between Sudan and Chad. UNHCR reports that there are some additional 6,000 to 8,000 refugees in the border area northwest of El Geneina, spread among five makeshift camps and 25 host communities.

“We plan to begin moving these refugees in two or three weeks, but we expect only about 30 per cent of them will want to go to the camp because most of them are staying with relatives or fellow tribe members,” Ms. Pagonis said.

There are also as many as 7,000 Chadians in border areas of West Darfur who as yet cannot be contacted because of the continuing insecurity, she said.

West Darfur also shelters many of the 2 million people displaced by the Darfur region’s civil war and militia violence. Another 200,000 Sudanese have fled to Chad.