With tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in eastern Chad, the United Nations refugee agency today said it is “in a race against time” to deliver aid before heavy rains cut off access to the group escaping violence linked to tribal conflicts.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has prepositioned enough aid in the area to cover the needs of 3,000 families and additional supplies are underway to cover the needs of another 4,000 from a regional stockpile in Douala, Cameroon, spokesperson Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva.
Almost 30,000 people – mainly women and children – recently fled communal violence in North and West Darfur, Sudan, for Tissi, a remote and volatile area on the border between Darfur and the Central African Republic (CAR).
An average of 300 people continue to cross the border into Tissi every day, and more are on the way “but armed groups are preventing them from crossing,” the spokesperson said quoting comments from recent refugees.
“They say that they fled because people were killed during the violence and that many houses were torched by armed men,” Mr. McNorton said, adding that they urgently need shelter, food, water and medical assistance.
Roads to Tissi are impassable during the May to November rainy season, Mr. McNorton said, and the first downpours have already started.
“Due to the rains, we are in a race against time. Road transport between Doula and Tissi takes 20 days. To speed up the delivery of aid UNHCR plans to hire a helicopter,” Mr. McNorton said.
He noted that UNHCR relocated about 1,500 refugees from Tissi to Goz Amir, a camp about 250 kilometres north, and provided them with shelter, food and household items. Additional transfers were halted due to heavy rains.
The agency plan additional relocations once the rainy season is over and once safe water sources are located on sites identified by the Government for camps.
“We are working with our partners on rehabilitating some existing water pumps while we drill boreholes,” Mr. McNorton said, as an alternative to river water which can put refugees at risk for waterborne diseases.
Darfurian refugees began arriving in Tissi in early April due to tribal conflicts between Misseriya and Salamat tribes around the Um Dhukun area of West Darfur. In addition to the Darfur refugees, the violence also forced almost 20,000 Chadians to cross into Tissi, as well as 458 refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) who had been in Darfur for years.