The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today deplored the violent and fatal suicide attacks that were carried out over the weekend in the western Chad town of Baga Sola.
“We are particularly concerned about the attack at the Kousseri site for internally displaced Chadians in Baga Sola that left at least 22 people dead in an area where UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have been trying to help provide protection and assistance to tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes by the conflict with Boko Haram,” Leo Dobbs, UNHCR spokesperson said at the bi-weekly news briefing today in Geneva.
According to local and UN security reports, the suicide bombers, including three women and two children attacked the market and the Kousseri site for internally displaced people (IDPs) on the outskirts of Baga Sola on Saturday afternoon.
The attack in Baga Sola, the first on the town, came a day before female suicide bombers killed nine people in Kangaleri, northern Cameroon. The attacks left 47 people dead and dozens injured and those in critical condition were flown by helicopter to N’Djamena.
Mr. Dobbs added that UNHCR along with other agencies works 10 kilometres from Baga Sola, in the Dar Es Salam refugee camp.
“All our staff in the area and the 7,139 refugees from Nigeria and Niger in the camp are safe, but we have suspended travel to and within the Lake Chad region. UN flights are on standby to evacuate people or bring in emergency supplies,” said Mr. Dobbs.
The UN agency welcomed the Government decision to improve security in the country following the attacks which revealed the vulnerability and isolation faced by refugees.
The spokesperson went on to note the harsh conditions of the displaced people, with many facing shortage of food, shelter and medical attention. Their makeshift shelters, some made with flimsy mosquito nets, provide little protection against insects or the elements during the current rainy season.
In recent weeks, UNHCR has been providing humanitarian assistance to over 60,000 internally displaced in the Lake area, including distributing vital non-food items to more than 32,800 people.
Besides aid distributions, the agency is assisting the Government by transporting food items from the capital for the displaced in the lake area, including rice, oil and sugar.
At present, Chad hosts over 438,000 refugees, including 350,000 Sudanese, 90,000 from Central African Republic and some 13,000 Nigerians.
“Many of these people were relocated from their island homes earlier this year as Lake Chad effectively became a war zone. Other agencies including MSF, WFP, UNICEF and the Red Cross Movement are also responding to the humanitarian needs of IDPs,” added Mr. Dobbs.
The agency reaffirmed its commitment to help the displaced in western Chad and urged the international community to support the country.