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Eastern Chad under severe humanitarian strain, UN official says

Eastern Chad under severe humanitarian strain, UN official says

Kingsley Amaning, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Chad
The swelling numbers of Darfur refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in eastern Chad is seriously straining the capacity of both the arid local environment and the region’s basic infrastructure, a United Nations aid official said today, warning that the humanitarian situation remained extremely precarious.

Kingsley Amaning, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Chad, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that more than 10,000 people from Darfur in neighbouring Sudan had fled across the porous border and sought refuge in the 12 official camps in eastern Chad.

The new arrivals join some 240,000 Darfurians who have lived in Chad since 2004 because of fighting in their homeland, as well as an estimated 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The numbers of displaced Chadians are rising because of the recent deadly clashes between Government forces and armed rebels, and the roughly 700,000 to 800,000 people who usually live in the area – and depend on trade with Darfur for their livelihoods – are also increasingly vulnerable to insecurity, inter-tribal fighting and armed attacks, Mr. Amaning said.

He said the area of eastern Chad that houses the 12 refugee camps is so arid and inhospitable that it normally could not sustain more than 20,000 people. The influx of Sudanese and Chadians is thus placing enormous pressure on the water supply, the energy supply, education facilities and health care.

Mr. Amaning added that the situation was exacerbated by the remoteness of the eastern part of Chad, a landlocked country. Food aid often has to arrive by overland convoy from Tripoli, Libya, over long distances, sand dunes and treacherous roads that become inaccessible during the annual rainy season.

Bandits and armed groups are also increasingly willing to attack the vehicles of relief organizations, including UN agencies, and some 80 vehicles have been hijacked or stolen in the area in recent years.

Mr. Amaning said the international community has been relatively generous in recent years in trying to remedy the situation, relieve the suffering of the refugees and IDPs and limit the deterioration of living standards for people in the area.

“If they are alive today, it is thanks to the international support that we as humanitarians have received and what you’ve translated into vigorous assistance and protection programmes for these hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.

But the Humanitarian Coordinator added that the growing population of people in need in eastern Chad meant aid agencies required even more funding to carry out their work. An appeal launched last December for $240 million has only received 2 per cent of its funding so far, he noted.