Chad: UNHCR completes move of Darfur refugees from Tissi border

Briefing Notes, 14 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 14 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In south-eastern Chad, we have finished the relocation of Darfur refugees from the volatile border area at Tissi to the newly established Ab Gadam camp, which is now hosting 10,247 people.

In addition to the urgency of moving refugees for safety reasons Tissi is also prone to bad weather. The first new storms and heavy winds have already hit the region, which is strewn with wadis that flood in the rainy season and make road travel impossible for humanitarian convoys.

The last relocation convoy left Tissi three days ago. In total, UNHCR and its partners moved 7,161 people over the past month most of them women, children and elderly refugees. Some 3086 other refugees travelled to Ab Gadam by foot and on donkey carts.

We are now turning our attention to other Darfur refugees scattered across 18 additional remote sites in the border area. A first convoy departed from Haraza village yesterday with 270 refugees. Our aim is to complete all transfers before the wadis are flooded.

The refugees at these sites have been living in makeshift shelters with barely any protection against sun and rain. The local population is sharing their few resources with them. Once heavy rains start refugee locations will become completely cut off. Getting assistance to people will be extremely difficult. The rains in Chad last from end May to November.

In the new Ab Gadam camp UNHCR and its partners are also preparing for the rainy season. We are distributing food and non-food rations and we are also pre-positioning relief items.

Last weekend we and our partners moved also offices from Tissi to Bir Nahal, just 12 kilometres from the camp. Being close to the camp will allow us to maintain delivery of aid to refugees throughout the rainy season and respond to arising needs.

Two temporary medical posts were built and UNHCR´s health partners will start to treat refugees locally. Before the move, refugees in need of treatment had to be transported to the main Tissi health post nearly 29km further with the risk of the road being cut off by the rains.

While Ab Gadam offers refugees a better chance at receiving protection and assistance, parts of the camp are prone to flooding. We are therefore sensitizing refugees to settle only in designated areas and redirected those who are occupying flood-prone areas to safer grounds.

Meanwhile, we continue to work with our partners to provide sufficient clean water for all the refugees in Ab Gadam camp. Until last week, aid agencies had to truck water from the Tissi river and make it safe for consumption as the four boreholes dug so far have not revealed any ground water. We have now started trucking water from lake Tira, located nine kilometres from the camp.

Since January it is estimated that some 30,000 Darfuris have crossed into south-eastern Chad. The first wave of refugees fled conflict over gold mines in northern Darfur between the Binheissin and Rizeigat tribes, while a later group crossed because of communal violence between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes in Um Dukhun, an area of western Darfur lying just seven kilometres north of Tissi. Refugees are reporting on-going fighting inside Sudan. UNHCR will keep monitoring borders for new arrivals.

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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.

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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.

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