Flooding in Chad affects 150,000 people, including refugees

News Stories, 17 September 2010

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Displaced people in the south-east of Chad, which has been affected by floods along with the south.

N'DJAMENA, Chad, September 17 (UNHCR) Flooding in Chad over the past two months has affected close to 150,000 people, including 70,000 who have become homeless because their homes were destroyed.

Refugees sheltering in south and south-east Chad have been hard hit by the flooding and the heaviest rains to affect the country in 40 years. Humanitarian access to affected areas across Chad remains a challenge due to destroyed roads and bridges in areas where populations are in need of help.

Refugees from two camps in the south-eastern 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 1, 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," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva on Friday. "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 mosquitos are likely to breed, increasing the exposure to malaria. A cholera epidemic was declared on September 3 and has claimed 41 lives across the country. To counter the health risks, wherever possible UNHCR is 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, the agency has helped 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," Mahecic said.




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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.

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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.

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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.

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