UNHCR speeding relocation of Darfur refugees away from Tissi border

Briefing Notes, 4 June 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In southeast Chad, UNHCR is speeding relocation of refugees from Tissi a settlement located a few miles from the borders with Sudan and Central African Republic to a site some 30 kilometres northwest at Ab Gadam. This is because of the impending rainy season and security concerns about Tissi itself, which lies in a volatile area.

Over the past two weeks 5,522 refugees have been moved. This is in addition to more than 1,800 refugees who were transferred last month to Goz Amir, an established camp 240 kilometres further north.

Since 17 May UNHCR and its partners have been relocating refugees at a rate of around 500 daily using truck and bus convoys. We hope to finish the Tissi relocations by the end of the week. We will then continue with relocations of people scattered nearby around Um Dukum. In total, we expect there to be 20,000 refugees in Ab Gadam by mid-June, weather permitting. We are also exploring the possibility of opening up additional sites should the numbers exceed 20,000.

Since January, close to 30,000 Darfurians have crossed into the Tissi area of Chad. The first wave of refugees were fleeing conflict between the Binheissin and Rizeigat tribes, while a later group crossed due to communal violence between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes.

Darfuris are continuing to cross into Tissi, as tensions persist in the Um Dukhun area of Darfur, about seven kilometres north of Tissi. Shelling last week in the Um Dukhun area was audible from the UNHCR compound.

Around 90 per cent of refugees currently in the border area are from the Salamat tribe. Most are women and children, sleeping in the open and at risk from waterborne diseases. We need additional funding to meet their urgent needs.

At Ab Gadam refugees receive food rations and non-food items including jerry cans, sanitation material, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets. Refugees are also provided with local materials and plastic sheeting to construct their own temporary shelters. UNHCR and its partners build shelters for the most vulnerable. Two temporary hangars have been set up for registration, distribution of aid, refugee meetings as well as medical and nutritional screening. Plans for a permanent structure are under way.

Providing sufficient drinking water is a challenge at Ab Gadam. We are currently trucking water from Tissi and storing it in bladders while we continue to work with our partners to dig boreholes and set up water pumps. Medical care and nutrition screening were started and currently refugees in need of medical assistance are transferred to the medical post in Tissi.

UNHCR is also prepositioning relief items closer to the camp Ab Gadam for the entire refugee population. We are also working on the establishment of a UNHCR office nearby to facilitate access to the camp during the rainy season. A helicopter will be used during the rainy season to maintain access.

To date UNHCR has registered 29,634 refugees mostly from Sudan and also a small number of 458 nationals from the Central African Republic. Before the recent influx, around 300,000 Sudanese refugees were already hosted in eastern Chad.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Tissi: Ruth Schöffl, on mobile +235 68 000 537
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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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

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

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