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Thousands flee attacks in Central African Republic; seek shelter in Chad

News Stories, 30 January 2009

© UNHCR/M.Baiwong
Some of the refugees at Daha in Chad after fleeing their villages in Central African Republic.

ABECHE, Chad, January 30 (UNHCR) More than 4,500 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have recently arrived in south-eastern Chad after fleeing attacks by rebel groups. Many said they feared further fighting between government forces and rebels in the northern part of CAR.

The UN refugee agency took part Wednesday in a joint UN humanitarian mission to the Chadian village of Daha and met many of the refugees, mainly women and children. They had crossed the nearby border from CAR in two waves since late last month.

The team found that a first group of about 200 local government workers fled across the border into Chad after their village in the Ngarba area was attacked by rebels in late December.

The second group of more than 4,300 people fled their villages on January 16-17, fearing imminent fighting between the CAR armed forces and the rebels. The refugees told UNHCR that they believed the rebel group was still controlling their home area, making it unsafe for them to return.

The new arrivals are mostly from farming families and originate from about 20 villages close to northern CAR's border with Chad. They seemed to be in good health, but are forced to live in the open under trees. Twelve refugee babies have been born over the past two weeks in Daha.

The refugees, who arrived with nothing, are in desperate need of food and other assistance. All reserves in the local health centre are depleted and there is no food left in the market. Residents of Daha, which has a population of 4,000, have shared some of their food and water. "We will certainly assist this group with emergency aid and provide them with plastic sheeting and basic non-food items as soon as possible," said Serge Male, UNHCR's representative in Chad.

UNHCR will assist the refugees with emergency aid and provide them with plastic sheeting and other basic aid items as soon as possible. A major challenge is simply reaching such a remote area.

It took three hours for the assessment mission to reach Daha from Abéché in eastern Chad aboard a UN peace-keeping helicopter. Once the rainy season starts in May, roads will become impassable and the refugees will be cut off.

In a separate development, the security situation in Abéché has been deteriorating over the past two weeks. UNHCR and other UN agencies based there have suffered multiple attacks by small groups of armed bandits. There have been three attacks on the houses of UNHCR staff members and three on the UNHCR compound. No one has been hurt in the attacks. No one has been arrested.

In eastern Chad, UNHCR provides assistance to 250,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur, in 12 refugee camps. In the south, there are five UNHCR camps hosting 56,000 refugees from the CAR.

By Annette Rehrl in Abéché, Chad

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Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

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