Chad: UN refugee agency airlifts emergency supplies after looting of warehouses
Chadian rebels occupied Abeche, eastern Chad’s capital, last Saturday and Government forces retook it the following day, but during the turmoil the warehouses were plundered, reportedly by local residents who looted over 480 metric tonnes of food from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and $1.3 million of supplies from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The emergency airlift brought in 10,000 plastic sheets and nearly 44,000 blankets. A further 10,000 plastic sheets, 108,000 blankets and 6,000 canvas tents will be sent in shortly by land to the town, the hub of relief aid for 218,000 Sudanese refugees and 90,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva today.
“A few truckloads of materials have so far been returned, but it’s still only a fraction of what was taken,” he said of recovery efforts by local authorities, who have told residents to return stolen goods. Some residents have left looted items in the streets for pick-up by humanitarian agencies and the security situation in Abeche is reported calm, with daily activities slowly resuming.
“The overall situation in Abeche is far from normal, however, with regular military movements within the town. Security conditions in outlying areas remain unclear, with various reports of ongoing military movements,” Mr. Redmond added.
The road from Abeche to the north is completely cut off due to security concerns, blocking UNHCR land access to six camps housing 110,000 Darfur refugees. “They have some supplies in place, but they need regular replenishment,” Mr. Redmond said. “We’re exploring alternative routes to keep the aid channels open.”
Some 145 humanitarian workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been temporarily relocated from the east to N’Djamena, the capital, and 98 more are registered to depart, with several planes scheduled for today. UNHCR is keeping essential staff in the region and bringing in logistics and supply experts.
The situation also remains volatile in south-eastern Chad, where armed men on horseback attacked villagers and stole their cattle before reportedly heading towards Sudan, Mr. Redmond said. Several similar attacks were reported, resulting in an exodus of 500 to 600 people across the border to West Darfur.
Gunfire was also reported around Koukou, near Goz Amir camp, in a land dispute. Goz Amir has 18,000 refugees and some have told UNHCR they fear for their security. Dozens of villages in the south-east were burned and abandoned in November after a wave of violence between Arabs and non-Arab tribes, uprooting at least 15,000.
On Wednesday, in Goz Beida, the compound of an NGO working with UNHCR was attacked by 100 young men who destroyed all equipment and slightly wounded 10 local staff, demanding that humanitarian agencies hire local townspeople.
In addition to the 90,000 displaced Chadians and 218,000 Darfurian refugees in eastern Chad, UNHCR also cares for 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) in southern Chad.