UNHCR prepositioning aid for Darfur refugees in Tissi ahead of rains in eastern Chad

Briefing Notes, 17 May 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 May 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is prepositioning aid for tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in eastern Chad amid fears heavy rains will cut off access to the group. Almost 30,000 people recently fled communal violence in North and West Darfur, Sudan. The refugees are mainly women and children and they urgently need shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance. They say that they fled because people were killed during the violence and that many houses were torched by armed men.

A first wave of Sudanese refugees started arriving in Tissi in eastern Chad between January and March when clashes over goldmines in Jabel Amer, North Darfur, turned into ethnic violence (between the Ben Hissein and the Rizeigat.) A second group began arriving in early April due to tribal conflicts (opposing Misseriya and Salamat tribes) around the Um Dhukun area of West Darfur. In addition to the Darfur refugees, the violence also forced almost 20,000 Chadians to cross into Tissi, as well as 458 refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) who had been in Darfur for years.

Tissi is in a remote and volatile Chadian border area straddling troubled parts of northern CAR and Darfur. Roads to the area become impassable during the rainy season lasting from May to November and the first rains have already started. The region has little infrastructure and new arrivals' presence is a strain on the local communities.

To date, UNHCR has registered 28,278 Sudanese refugees in the Tissi area. They are settled across 16 sites within a 100 km radius. Most are herders moving frequently in search of pasture land and water for their livestock and this makes it extremely challenging to register and assist them.

To ensure UNHCR is able to offer protection and assistance to the refugees until the next dry season, we have prepositioned enough aid in the area to cover the needs of 3,000 refugee families. Aid distribution will start on the weekend. Additional supplies are due to arrive from our regional stockpile in Douala, Cameroon, to cover the needs of another 4,000 families.

Due to the rains, we are in a race against time. Road transport between Doula and Tissi takes 20 days to speed up the delivery of aid- UNHCR plans to hire a helicopter.

After the rains, UNHCR plans to relocate refugees to safety further inland once available water sources are located in sites given to UNHCR by the government. In the meantime, we are working with our partners on rehabilitating some existing water pumps while we drill boreholes. Refugees currently drink from a river, and so put themselves at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

Meanwhile, we have managed to relocate about 1,500 refugees to Goz Amir a camp located around 250 kilometres north of Tissi. We provided the relocated refugees with shelter, food and household items. We halted the transfers due to heavy rains. An average of 300 refugees a day continues to cross into Tissi as communal tensions persit in Darfur. The new arrivals say that many more are on their way to Chad but that armed groups are preventing them from crossing.

Before the latest influx, there were some 300,000 Darfur refugees in Chad.

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New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

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