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Central African refugees may suffer again because of Chad’s crisis – UN official

Central African refugees may suffer again because of Chad’s crisis – UN official

John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator
The top United Nations humanitarian official voiced grave concern today that about 50,000 Central African refugees who have been living in Chad will be uprooted again because of the widespread violence in the impoverished African nation.

Nearly 6,000 people have fled the Central African Republic (CAR) for southern Chad in the past two months alone, escaping violent clashes between Government forces and armed opposition groups and brutal attacks by bandits in the north of their homeland.

“These are people who have lost everything,” said John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “The current crisis in Chad means that they risk being uprooted and displaced again.”

Fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups in Chad has engulfed the landlocked country in the past week, reaching the capital, N’Djamena, and forcing as many as 30,000 civilians to flee into Cameroon.

Toby Lanzer, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, said the aid community that is based in that country stood ready to help all civilians.

“The crisis currently touching the Chad-CAR-Sudan nexus is regional, and – as usual – civilians will bear the brunt of violence,” he said.

Up to 197,000 Central Africans live as internally displaced persons (IDPs), while some 98,000 others are refugees in either Cameroon, Chad or Sudan. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need $92.6 million this year to carry out their work.

Following the violence in Chad, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that an inter-agency team dispatched to northern Cameroon has begun assessing how much food, water, medicine and shelter the new refugees will need to have basic living conditions.

UNICEF is also readying blankets and school supplies for about 10,000 children and preparing to give out vitamins and re-hydration salts and immunize the Chadians against potential outbreaks of measles and meningitis.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have all expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Chad over the past week.

Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned that pregnant women and their children are particularly at risk during the current crisis as their access to maternal health-care facilities becomes sharply reduced.

“We know that in any refugee crisis, one in five women of child-bearing age may be pregnant,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director.

The agency is supplying clean delivery kits, which include plastic sheeting, razor blades and soap, to ensure safe delivery to displaced Chadians.