UN refugee agency to aid newly arrived Sudanese in Central African Republic

1 June 2007
Sudanese refugees

The United Nations refugee agency has announced plans to delivery emergency aid to Sudanese refugees who have recently fled attacks in the Darfur region and crossed into the Central African Republic (CAR).

The United Nations refugee agency has announced plans to delivery emergency aid to Sudanese refugees who have recently fled attacks in the Darfur region and crossed into the Central African Republic (CAR).

The flow of refugees, which over the past two weeks has seen at least 1,500 Sudanese arrive in Sam Ouandja, is continuing, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which commissioned a registration team to travel to the area.

The team will take down names and other details of new arrivals at a special site set aside by local authorities for the refugees, the agency said in a news release.

UNHCR is preparing a first delivery of some 600 rolls of plastic sheeting – enough for 3,000 people – which the refugees will use to prepare temporary shelters. Other UN agencies are arranging the delivery of food, water and sanitation supplies.

On Monday, a team of UNHCR staff and representatives of other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reported from Sam Ouandja that most new arrivals were women and children who had walked for 10 days from the town of Dafak in Darfur – a distance of some 200 kilometres. They had used paths which are accessible only on foot or by donkey.

“I was touched by what I saw in Sam Ouandja,” said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s representative in CAR and leader of the inter-agency mission. “Women were collecting mangoes and the men were working on nearby farms to make some money. Many families had begun building makeshift houses. There was a spontaneous settlement coming up,” he said, adding that some refugees were selling their livestock.

Mr. Geddo said the refugees had described how their homes had been bombarded by an Antonov aircraft and helicopters and attacked on the ground by armed assailants whom they alleged were Arab janjaweed militiamen. The attacks, which took place between 12 and 18 May, drove people from Dafak, a town of some 15,000 inhabitants. The refugees said there were more air attacks as they fled.

Despite reports about the presence of armed groups among the refugees, “The joint mission did not find evidence of the presence of armed or otherwise suspicious elements in the group,” said Mr. Geddo. UNHCR has pledged to continue to monitor the situation closely.

The refugees said they would not return to Darfur until their safety could be guaranteed, according to the agency. Many expressed fear of further attacks and asked the CAR authorities to provide added protection in Sam Ouandja, which was attacked earlier this year by CAR rebels. The town suffers from a shortage of food and medical supplies. Schools are closed as many of the teachers fled last year.

CAR hosts some 8,200 refugees, mainly from the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad. There are also more than 200,000 internally displaced people in the country, UNHCR said.

Meanwhile in Geneva, Elizabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the CAR is one of the most forgotten countries in the world and its humanitarian crisis seemed to be ignored by donor countries.

The Economy Minister of the Central African Republic, Sylvain Maliko, and the Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, are touring a number of European capitals to draw the attention of officials to the situation.

On 30 per cent of the $80 million sought in the 2007 UN Appeal has been covered, Ms. Byrs said. Later this month, development partners will meet to address the situation ahead of a pledging conference planned for October.

 

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