Chad: Stranded Central Africans begin arduous journey to safety
Assisted by UNHCR and its partners, the first of some 2,000 Central African Republic (CAR) refugees stranded by floods for the past three weeks in southern Chad this morning began a strenuous journey by foot, canoe and truck to reach one of our refugee camps. The refugees, who have been living rough in the Bekan area of southern Chad since last month, will first have to walk for 17 km before reaching the banks of the flooded Nya River, where seven six-seat canoes organised by UNHCR will be waiting to ferry them to the other side. There, they will board two small trucks for a 7-km trip on a very rough track to the village of Bedoumia, where they will then have to walk across a damaged bridge to the other side, where larger UNHCR and IFRC trucks will be waiting to transport them on the final 18-km leg of the journey to our camp at Amboko. We estimate that an average of 300 people will be moved every day to the camp, so the relocation operation should be completed within a week.
Using canoes and motorcycles, UNHCR staff travelled to Bekan on Wednesday to register the refugees and provide them with food for the journey. They have also been visited by an NGO medical team, COOPI.
The relocation movement is organized by UNHCR together with its partners, which include CNAR (Commission Nationale d'Accueil et de Réinsertion des Réfugiés - Chad's national refugee authority), IFRC, the Chadian Red Cross, COOPI, African Concern, and Care International.
Many of the refugees are in poor health. They have been living in the forest for the past three to four weeks, eating roots and wild fruit to survive. Local residents have also provided them with some food, although they don't have much to share.
The refugees will undergo medical screening upon arrival in Amboko camp. They will be staying in the camp's school until we can move them to a new camp we're preparing at Bedamara, 10 km from Amboko. A UNHCR site planner is scheduled to arrive at Bedamara in the next few days to oversee development of the new site. Amboko camp, which is presently housing 23,000 refugees who have fled insecurity in northern CAR, will soon reach its maximum capacity of 27,000. Altogether, up to 45,000 refugees from CAR are in southern Chad. Chad is also hosting 200,000 refugees from Darfur in the east of the country.