Global perspective Human stories

UN readies to provide more lasting help for Chadian refugees in Cameroon

UN readies to provide more lasting help for Chadian refugees in Cameroon

Chadian refugees find refuge on grounds of a Catholic church in Kousseri
United Nations aid officials in Cameroon are preparing plans to deliver protection and assistance for some months to as many as 20,000 Chadian refugees who fled their homeland last week because of deadly fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups.

An estimated 30,000 refugees are currently in Kousséri, in north-eastern Cameroon, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) local representative Jacques Franquin said that after handling the group’s immediate life-saving needs, the agency expects about two thirds will not return to Chad in the coming weeks.

“We expect such number to remain in Chad in the medium term,” Mr. Franquin said. “We are now working with our donors to ensure funding so that we can provide the protection and assistance required.”

This weekend UNHCR and its aid partners will start officially registering the new refugees and offering some of them transport to a camp near the town of Maltam, about 32 kilometres from Kousséri.

Silvia Luciani, the acting representative in Cameroon of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said vaccinations against measles and polio will start tomorrow for up to 44,000 children among the refugees and the local host communities.

UNICEF has also been providing 48,000 litres of drinking water to the refugees each day since Saturday, when the World Food Programme (WFP) began systematic distributions of food. The Chadians will also receive blankets, soaps, buckets and jerry cans.

Sophie de Caen, the UN Resident Coordinator for Cameroon, said that while the living and hygienic conditions for the refugees were harsh, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the area were getting the situation under control. A cargo plane chartered by UNHCR landed in Garoua, Cameroon, on Sunday, carrying another 45 tons of relief items.

Although people are still crossing back and forth over the bridge between Kousséri and the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the refugee inflow has almost stopped.

Meanwhile, UNHCR reported that some 6,000 to 7,000 Central Africans have fled their homeland for southern Chad since late January because of the increasing risk of bandit attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR).

UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said the agency is sending a team today to assess the recent arrivals, who are largely located in several villages near Gore, the main town in southern Chad.

Mostly women and children, the refugees are in poor condition, arriving with no possessions and relying on the generosity of locals. There are now an estimated 50,000 Central African refugees living in Chad.

Both Chad and the CAR have been plagued by violence, instability and impoverishment and last year the Security Council authorized the establishment of a multi-dimensional UN presence – including a peacekeeping mission known as MINURCAT – to try to remedy the situation.

Victor Angelo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Chad and the CAR, said today that he would work to persuade armed groups in the region to lay down their weapons and join a political process.