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.

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