Chad: UN agency offers assistance after floods strike southeast

17 September 2010

The United Nations refugee agency sounded the alarm today about the situation facing thousands of residents of southern and south-eastern Chad, where the heaviest rains in 40 years have destroyed homes and infrastructure, wiped out cropland and cut off access to towns and communities.

About 70,000 Chadians are homeless because of the floods, which follow torrential rains over the past two months, according to Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

As many as 150,000 people are classified as affected by the floods, including thousands of refugees living in the region, Mr. Mahecic told journalists in Geneva.

Two refugee camps in the southeast, Yarounga and Moula, have been particularly hard hit, with recently cultivated crops and fields wiped out. Many shelters and latrines have also collapsed.

Mr. Mahecic said the start of the school year, scheduled for 1 October, may have to be delayed because the refugees have temporarily occupied the schools until they can find new shelter.

UNHCR has identified two sites to relocate about 4,000 refugees in the camps, but distributing food and other relief items is proving difficult because the roads are in such poor condition.

The agency has provided about 15,000 people across the region with basic survival kits that comprise blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and bed mats.

It is also raising awareness about the importance of basic hygiene practices in the wake of the floods. The collapse of so many latrines means waste may resurface, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.

At least 41 Chadians have died in a nationwide cholera outbreak, and malaria is also seen as a potential threat in the region.

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