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Refugees from Darfur call for improved educational facilities in eastern Chad camps

News Stories, 29 January 2010

© UNHCR/A. Rehrl
Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Janet Lim visits a mother with her new-born baby in Djabal refugee camp.

GOZ BEIDA, Chad, January 29 (UNHCR) Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad told a senior UNHCR official this week that they need better educational facilities for their children, while Chadians displaced within their own country said they were worried about food shortages in the coming year.

The call came on Thursday when Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Janet Lim visited Djabal, one of 12 UNHCR-run camps in eastern Chad hosting some 250,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region. There are also some 166,000 internally displaced Chadian nationals in the east.

Refugee leaders in the camp, located near the town of Goz Beida, said facilities in Djabal's three primary schools urgently needed to be improved. They said that, due to a lack of funding, there were hardly any chairs and desks and most children had to sit on the floor. They also did not have enough stationery, textbooks and other materials to study with.

With their prospects of going back home soon looking remote, they also called for the establishment of secondary schools in camps across the east. There are currently only two secondary schools in the 12 camps.

Lim took their requests as a positive development. "Whenever refugees start to ask for better education, it means that all their other basic needs are well taken care of," she noted. UNHCR believes the improvement of educational facilities and opportunities in refugee camps can help prevent children and teenagers from being recruited by armed groups.

The Assistant High Commissioner also met a group of Chadians who had been displaced by fighting in 2006-2007 between government troops and rebel forces in the east and found shelter close to Djabal in a place called Gouroukun. They said they were worried about food shortages this year because of the poor harvest of crops such as millet and sorghum in 2009. They said continuing insecurity in the Chad-Sudan border region prevented them from returning home.

Lim, meanwhile, said the host communities in the east should not be forgotten. "We must make sure that the local community can benefit more from the assistance that is being provided to the refugees and, if necessary, we should be ready to encourage our development-oriented partners to engage in programmes covering the needs of host communities."

The Assistant High Commissioner, who is in Chad to review UNHCR's operations there, also visited Touloum refugee camp, where staff are registering some 26,000 refugees. The refugee agency completed verification exercises in 10 of the refugee camps last year and the information is being used to update databases and identify the most vulnerable refugees.

Lim praised UNHCR staff and partner organizations for their vital work in the country. "The Chad operation has the reputation of being among the most difficult and challenging ones worldwide. You are in the deep field and you are the point of delivery. I'm really impressed by what has been achieved so far," she said.

Lim is scheduled to travel to southern Chad on Saturday, where she will visit camps providing shelter for almost 70,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. She began her four-day visit on Wednesday in the Chad capital, N'Djamena, where she discussed UNHCR's plans to shift its operational footing in the east from an emergency mode to providing care and maintenance for Sudanese refugees who have arrived in Chad since 2003.

By Annette Rehrl in Goz Beida, Chad




UNHCR country pages


Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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