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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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

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, "What is the most important thing you brought from home?" The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets - things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

When fighting erupted in Kormaganza, Blue Nile state, in September last year, 80-year-old Dawa Musa's family decided to flee to the neighbouring village of Mafot. Dawa was too frail to make the two-day journey by foot, so her son, Awad Kutuk Tungud, hid her in the bush for three days while he moved his wife, Alahia, and nine children to safety. Awad returned for his mother and carried her to Mafot, where the family remained in relative safety for several months - until artillery began shelling the village.

Awad again fled with his family - this time across the border to South Sudan. For 15 gruelling days, he carried both his elderly mother and his daughter Zainab on his back, until they reached the border crossing at Al Fudj in February. UNHCR transported the family to Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. They lived in safety for seven months until heavy rains caused flooding, making it difficult for UNHCR to bring clean water to the camp and bringing the threat of highly contagious waterborne diseases.

UNHCR set up a new camp in Gendrassa, located 55 kilometres from Jamam and on higher ground, and began the relocation of 56,000 people to the new camp. Among them were Awad and his family. Awad carried his mother once again, but this time it was to their new tent in Gendrassa camp. Awad has plans to begin farming. "Come back in three months," he said, "and there will be maize growing."

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

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