The United Nations refugee agency said today it was hastening to replace supplies and put preventive measures in place after five accidental fires swept through two camps for Sudanese refugees in remote eastern Chad in the past four weeks.
A 9-year old boy died and some 1,455 people were left homeless in the Amer and Djabal camps, due to the fires, which were caused by poorly tended open fires fanned by heavy winds, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.
“Despite repeated fires in the camps in 2007-08, refugees remain reluctant to construct their shelters with more fire-resistant mud bricks, preferring instead traditional sticks and straw which are tinder dry,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said in Geneva today.
After each fire, UNHCR staff in the two camps immediately distributed family tents and other household items, including plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, jerry cans and kitchen sets to those affected, he said.
“We continue to stress the need for caution with open cooking fires and are encouraging refugees to build their shelters with more durable materials like mud bricks,” Mr. Redmond said.
He added that UNHCR is seeking an additional $350,000 to carry out a durable shelter strategy in 2009 that will entail fitting the houses of some 1,660 vulnerable families with durable roofing materials not as prone to fire.
A total of 250,000 Sudanese refugees from the strife-torn Darfur region are hosted in 12 UNHCR-administered refugee camps in eastern Chad, and other 60,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) are in five UNHCR-assisted sites in the south of the country.