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Thousands of refugees from Darfur remain along volatile border – UN agency

Thousands of refugees from Darfur remain along volatile border – UN agency

About 8,000 Sudanese remain scattered in a handful of villages along the volatile border with Chad, more than two months after a major round of fighting erupted in West Darfur, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva that the agency has been able to transfer some 5,400 people to two camps it runs in eastern Chad, despite the logistical challenges posed by the continuing insecurity and the remoteness of the region.

“There has been sporadic military activity on the Darfur side of the border, and armed groups are often seen on the Chadian side,” Mr. Redmond said. “On Sunday morning, a UNHCR team on the Chad side of the border witnessed aerial bombing on the Sudan side southeast of the Chadian border town of Birak.”

Most of the transferred refugees – nine out of 10 are women and children – were taken to Kounoungou camp, which was recently expanded but has now reached its capacity of 18,900 residents. This week about 170 refugees were transferred to the camp at Mile, which is 20 kilometres south of Kounoungou. In total, there are 12 UNHCR-run camps in eastern Chad serving as home to roughly 250,000 people.

Mr. Redmond noted that most of the refugees had been living in the open since fighting flared in several towns and villages in the northern part of West Darfur state on 9 February.

When the Darfurians arrive at the camps, they are given medical examinations and any children are vaccinated. Families also receive tents and household kits for use as temporary shelter until the refugees can build sturdier mud-brick huts.

Nearly 2.5 million people have been displaced because of the conflict between Government forces, allied militiamen and rebels in Darfur that has raged since 2003, and more than 200,000 others have been killed.

Since the start of the year a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) has been in place to try to quell the humanitarian suffering and violence.