Influx of Central African Republic refugees to south-eastern Chad

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

An emergency relief convoy is scheduled to depart this morning from the Chadian town of Abéché on a gruelling, three-day,720-km journey to a remote area of south-eastern Chad where up to 10,500 refugees from the strife-torn Central African Republic are now estimated to have sought safety. The latest influx around the Chadian border village of Daha results from fighting which began in late December and sent an initial 4,500 refugees to the Daha area in mid-January. The situation continued to deteriorate this week with the arrival of thousands more refugees. Local Chadian authorities estimate that between 4,000-5,000 new refugees arrived in Daha on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the total number of CAR refugees in the remote area to an estimated 8,500 to 10,500.

Most of the new arrivals are women and children. They fled ongoing fighting in north-eastern CAR between rebel groups and the military near the town of Ngarba the refugees are in dire need of assistance. Many are sheltered under trees in the open. Others have constructed flimsy shelters that offer very little protection from the weather. Local authorities report that food is scarce and that people are in need of medical assistance. The health centre has run out of medication due to the sudden arrival of the refugees, and medical supplies are urgently needed - especially to treat malaria. Refugees as well as the local population of Daha - about 4,000 people - have little access to clean water.

A convoy of 11 trucks and five light vehicles from UNHCR, the World Food Programme, and GTZ (German government) is scheduled to leave Abéché - our operations hub in eastern Chad - this morning (Friday) to travel south to Daha, 720 km away. Daha is located 1 km from the CAR border. A truck with 14,000 litres of fuel will also accompany the convoy. It will take at least three days for the convoy to cover the long distance on very poor roads.

The trucks are bringing food, medical supplies and basic assistance items. UNHCR will assist the refugees with the distribution of 2,500 pieces of plastic sheeting, 3,000 kitchen sets, 3,000 jerry cans, 4,000 blankets, 4,500 mats and soap. WFP is providing 15-day food rations for 10,000 people. UNICEF is dispatching 20 tons of essential supplies - including vaccines against measles - and will conduct a health/nutrition assessment. WHO is sending various medicines.

We are also deploying an emergency team of five staff to Daha to assist the refugees and assess their needs as well as the possibility of opening of a small office there. But the main problem remains the logistical challenges to reach the area. Roads are in very bad condition and will become impassable once the rainy season starts in two months. We are exploring the possibility of using an airstrip in Haraze Manguiegne, 120 km from Daha.

In eastern Chad we already assist 250,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. They are housed in 12 camps. In Southern Chad, we take care of 52,000 refugees from the CAR in five camps