Chad: Torrential rains affect 150,000 people, including refugees

Briefing Notes, 17 September 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 September 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Flooding in Chad over the past two months has now affected close to 150,000 people, including 70,000 who have become homeless as a result of their homes having been destroyed.

This is the first time in 40 years that rainfalls of this magnitude have been recorded in Chad.

Refugees sheltering in south and southeast Chad have been hard hit. Humanitarian access to affected areas across the entire country remains a challenge due to destroyed roads and bridges in areas where populations are in need of help.

Refugees from two camps in the southeastern region at Yarounga and Moula are among the latest victims of the rains. Large portions of their recently cultivated lands and crops have been wiped out, exposing them to a possible food crisis. Many of their shelters and latrines have also collapsed. The beginning of the school year, planned for October 1st, may also be delayed as these people temporarily occupy schools, pending provision of new shelter.

Despite our emergency interventions, some 4,000 refugees remain without shelter. We have identified two sites for their relocation from the flooded areas. Meanwhile, the poor state of roads leading to both camps makes the provision of food and relief items difficult as heavy vehicles get stuck.

There are many health hazards associated with the floods. In the case of collapsed latrines, there is a risk that waste may resurface, possibly causing diseases to the nearby population. Ground water, which UNHCR extracts from boreholes for refugees' daily consumption may also become contaminated. In many places mosquitoes are likely to breed, increasing the exposure to malaria. A cholera epidemic was declared on 3 September, and has already claimed 41 lives across the country.

To counter the health risks, wherever possible we are raising awareness and instructing people to maintain basic hygiene and prevent children from playing in stagnating waters.

While UNHCR assistance focuses on areas with refugee and internally displaced people, we have also extended our help to local families from nearby villages. Our aid is in support of the Chadian government's national relief efforts. So far we have provided 3,000 families (some 15,000 people) in the East and South with basic survival kits comprising blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and bed mats.