Chad: Torrential rains affect 150,000 people, including refugees

Briefing Notes, 17 September 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 September 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Flooding in Chad over the past two months has now affected close to 150,000 people, including 70,000 who have become homeless as a result of their homes having been destroyed.

This is the first time in 40 years that rainfalls of this magnitude have been recorded in Chad.

Refugees sheltering in south and southeast Chad have been hard hit. Humanitarian access to affected areas across the entire country remains a challenge due to destroyed roads and bridges in areas where populations are in need of help.

Refugees from two camps in the southeastern region at Yarounga and Moula are among the latest victims of the rains. Large portions of their recently cultivated lands and crops have been wiped out, exposing them to a possible food crisis. Many of their shelters and latrines have also collapsed. The beginning of the school year, planned for October 1st, may also be delayed as these people temporarily occupy schools, pending provision of new shelter.

Despite our emergency interventions, some 4,000 refugees remain without shelter. We have identified two sites for their relocation from the flooded areas. Meanwhile, the poor state of roads leading to both camps makes the provision of food and relief items difficult as heavy vehicles get stuck.

There are many health hazards associated with the floods. In the case of collapsed latrines, there is a risk that waste may resurface, possibly causing diseases to the nearby population. Ground water, which UNHCR extracts from boreholes for refugees' daily consumption may also become contaminated. In many places mosquitoes are likely to breed, increasing the exposure to malaria. A cholera epidemic was declared on 3 September, and has already claimed 41 lives across the country.

To counter the health risks, wherever possible we are raising awareness and instructing people to maintain basic hygiene and prevent children from playing in stagnating waters.

While UNHCR assistance focuses on areas with refugee and internally displaced people, we have also extended our help to local families from nearby villages. Our aid is in support of the Chadian government's national relief efforts. So far we have provided 3,000 families (some 15,000 people) in the East and South with basic survival kits comprising blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and bed mats.

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Darfuri Refugees in Chad: No end in Sight

More than six years after the beginning of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, more than a quarter-of-a-million refugees remain displaced in neighbouring Chad. Most of the refugees are women and children and many are still traumatized after fleeing across the border after losing almost everything in land and air raids on their villages.

Families saw their villages being burned, their relatives being killed and their livestock being stolen. Women and girls have been victims of rape, abuse and humiliation, and many have been ostracized by their own communities as a result.

The bulk of the refugees live in 12 camps run by UNHCR in the arid reaches of eastern Chad, where natural resources such as water and firewood are scarce. They have been able to resume their lives in relative peace, but all hope one day to return to Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of their compatriots are internally displaced.

In eastern Chad, UNHCR and other agencies are helping to take care of 180,000 internally displaced Chadians, who fled inter-ethnic clashes in 2006-2007. Some families are starting to return to their villages of origin only now.

Darfuri Refugees in Chad: No end in Sight

Chad's other refugee crisis

While attention focuses on the Darfuris in eastern Chad, another refugee crisis unfolds in southern Chad.

A second refugee crisis has been quietly unfolding in the south of Chad for the past few years, getting little attention from the media and the international community. Some 60,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) are hosted there in five camps and receive regular assistance from UNHCR. But funding for aid and reintegration projects remains low. Refugees have been fleeing fighting between rebel groups and governmental forces in northern CAR. 17,000 new refugees have arrived from northern CAR to south-eastern Chad since the beginning of 2009.

Chad's other refugee crisis

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

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