More than 4,500 refugees from the northern Central African Republic (CAR), fearing attacks from armed groups and fighting between Government forces and rebels, have recently arrived in south-eastern Chad, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
A first group of about 200 local government workers left their villages after rebels attacked in late December, according to a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who relayed information gathered Wednesday by a joint UN humanitarian mission to the Chadian village of Daha near the CAR border.
A second group of over 4,000 people, mostly farmers from an area near the border, fled on January 16-17 in anticipation of imminent attacks between CAR governmental forces and rebels.
Those refugees believe the rebel group is still controlling their home area, making it unsafe for them to return, according to the humanitarian mission, which was assisted by the UN peacekeeping force in CAR and Chad, known as MINURCAT, and its European support force, EUFOR.
“The refugees, who arrived with nothing, are in desperate need of food and other assistance,” said UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond. “All reserves in the local health centre are depleted and there is no food left in the market,” he added.
He said that some of the 4,000 residents of Daha have shared their food and water with the refugees, who are staying under trees and sleeping in the open.
UNHCR will assist the refugees with emergency aid and provide them with plastic sheeting and other basic aid items as soon as possible, he added.
“A major challenge is simply reaching such a remote area,” Mr. Redmond explained. “On Wednesday, it took three hours by MINURCAT helicopter from UNHCR's main base in Abeché, eastern Chad. Once the rainy season starts in May, roads will become impassable and the refugees will be inaccessible.”
In addition, Mr. Redmond said, the security situation in the base area of Abeché has been seriously deteriorating over the past two weeks, with UNHCR and other UN agencies suffering multiple attacks by small groups of armed bandits.
UNHCR provides assistance in eastern Chad to some 250,000 Sudanese refugees from Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, in 12 refugee camps while five camps in the south host 56,000 refugees from the CAR.
In a development in the north-eastern part of the country today, UN Police and a local security force trained by MINURCAT seized forbidden equipment including fatigues, chargers and ammunition as they conducted a joint weapons search operation in the Am Nabak refugee camp.
The operation was the first of its kind to be conducted with the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS), entirely made up of Chadian Police and Gendarmerie elements and trained by MINURCAT to provide security to humanitarian actors on the ground, Darfur refugee camps and sites hosting internally displaced persons from Chad.