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Fire ravages part of UN refugee camp in eastern Chad, leaving 3,000 homeless

Fire ravages part of UN refugee camp in eastern Chad, leaving 3,000 homeless

Sudanese refugees arrive in Chad after escaping attacks in Darfur
Some 3,000 people from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region are again homeless after fire swept through part of a refugee camp in eastern Chad today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported.

Ten people were slightly injured in the midday blaze at Goz Amer camp, believed to have been caused by an untended cooking fire that then spread rapidly because of the high winds.

Many refugees lost all their food rations and meagre belongings, and numerous stick and mud shelters that had been constructed in 2004 when the Darfurians first arrived in Goz Amer also ignited easily.

The newly displaced are being housed at three camp schools, while tomorrow more tents and aid supplies – including sleeping mats, blankets and kitchen sets – will be distributed. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also handing out additional monthly food rations.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said from Geneva that he was relieved there had been no loss of life from the fire.

“The refugees have already suffered so much tragedy and now face yet another trauma… We will do everything we can to help and to get shelter and food supplies to them as quickly as possible,” he said.

UNHCR staff have started opening up stockpiles in the area and delivering blankets and aid supplies, an effort they plan to continue throughout the weekend by drawing supplies from around eastern Chad.

Emmanuel Uwurukundo, the agency’s acting head of office in nearby Koukou-Angarana, said “everyone around, refugees and all our partners alike, rushed to the spot and tried to extinguish the fire with whatever they had – clothes, extinguishers and water.”

He said bricks should be used in the future instead of stick and mud shelters to avoid such incidents.

Goz Amer, which lies about 70 kilometres from the border with Darfur, is host to about 20,500 people and it is the southernmost of 12 UNHCR-run camps in the region that are home to more than 240,000 Darfurians in total, all fleeing conflict that has raged in their homeland since 2003.

The remoteness of the region, which is also home to about 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), already makes it an extremely difficult environment in which UNHCR has to operate.