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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




UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

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CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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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

Portraits of Darfur's Refugees

Nearly 200,000 refugees, the majority of them women and children, have fled across the border from Sudan into Chad since the outbreak of conflict in Sudan's Darfur region in March 2003. The refugees have left behind their homes and often loved ones in Darfur, where militias have reportedly killed and raped villagers, looted and burned houses and possessions and driven people from their homes.

Most of the refugees in eastern Chad are sheltered in 11 camps established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where they receive humanitarian aid, shelter, water and basic services.

Life in the camps is not easy in the desert environment of eastern Chad, where water and firewood are extremely scarce. Sandstorms are a regular feature during the dry months and torrential rains flood the landscape in the wet season.

Yet in the faces of the refugees, dignity and hope remain in spite of the hardships and the violence they have suffered.

Portraits of Darfur's Refugees

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

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