Cargo plane delivers UNHCR aid for Chadian refugees in Cameroon

News Stories, 8 February 2008

© UNHCR Kousseri
Hundreds of Chadian refugees find refuge on the grounds of a Catholic church in Kousseri.

GENEVA, February 8 (UNHCR) An Ilyushin-76 cargo plane chartered by the UN refugee agency landed in the northern Cameroon town of Garoua on Friday carrying 45 tonnes of relief items for thousands of Chadian refugees. A second flight carrying another 45 tonnes is expected on Sunday in Garoua, located 800 kilometres north of the Cameroon capital of Yaoundé.

The cargo on Friday's flight included plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans and cooking sets as well as two four-wheel-drive vehicles, three generators and telecommunications equipment for use by a UNHCR emergency team in the town of Kousséri, which faces Chad capital N'Djamena across the Chari River.

The relief items are due to be transported by truck on Saturday to Kousséri. The Ilyushin due Sunday will also carry telecommunications equipment for UNHCR's sister agency, the World Food Programme (WFP).

An estimated 30,000 Chadians fled fighting between government troops and rebel forces earlier this week in N'Djamena and have found refuge in the Kousséri area. The two planeloads of UNHCR aid should be enough for 14,000 people.

"Our teams in Kousséri have observed that there have been a lot of back-and-forth movements in the past two days, but it is too early to say if people are going back to their homes in Chad permanently," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

"Some people are crossing back to spend the day in N'Djamena, checking on their properties and then going back to spend the night in Kousséri. Others have returned to their homes in N'Djamena, but left their families behind in Kousséri," she added.

By the end of Friday, UNHCR expects to have 16 staff in Kousséri. The UNHCR team has started to set up emergency facilities in Madana transit site, close to the bridge linking Chad to Cameroon. The site presently hosts between 7,000 to 10,000 Chadian refugees. UNHCR and UNICEF trucked drinkable water to the group from Kousséri on Thursday and Friday.

UNHCR and the Cameroon Red Cross Society on Friday began working together on sanitation facilities in the transit site. Together with WFP, UNHCR is planning a food distribution for up to 30,000 people on Saturday. Rations will include beans, rice and cooking oil.

"Our team is presently working on equipping another more suitable site for these people, in Maltam, located 32 kilometres from Kousséri," said Gilbert Loubaki, head of the UNHCR emergency team in Kousséri. "We are confident that Maltam will be ready very soon."

Two UNHCR trucks containing 12 tonnes of relief items arrived on Wednesday and Thursday in Kousséri from eastern Cameroon. On Sunday, UNHCR plans to distribute relief items including blankets, jerry cans, buckets, and soaps in Madana and elsewhere in Kousséri, where UNHCR is the lead agency coordinating humanitarian relief.

In N'Djamena, meanwhile, the situation was calm on Friday morning but the streets remained empty and very few shops were open. "UNHCR local staff who remained in N'Djamena are starting to collect UNHCR tents which were looted from our warehouse and later abandoned by looters in the streets. UNHCR's office in the capital was not touched," Pagonis said.

In eastern Chad, UNHCR and its UN and NGO partners are continuing to provide protection and assistance to 240,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 camps and 180,000 internally displaced Chadians. Food distribution in refugee camps has been carried out and refugee committees kept up to date on the current situation.

But Pagonis said UNHCR was alarmed by the sudden jump in armed banditry in refugee camps. In the latest incident on Thursday, armed men on camels attacked security gendarmes at Kounungou refugee camp, near Guéréda.

Also on Thursday, a gendarme at Oure Cassoni camp, near Bahai, was shot dead by two unknown intruders who were attempting to steal a vehicle. Vehicle theft appears to be the main aim of the bandits. Another gendarme was killed earlier this week in Farchana refugee camp.

UNHCR is also still providing assistance to nearly 7,400 newly arrived refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), who have fled their country over the last five weeks. The refugees will soon be moved to one of the four refugee camps in southern Chad, where 45,000 CAR refugees live.