Southern Chad: Contact finally made with stranded Central Africans
UNHCR has finally managed to establish contact with the leaders of some 2,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) presently stranded by flooding in 12 locations around the village of Bekam in southern Chad. Bekam village is completely inaccessible by road because of ongoing rains which have flooded the entire area. Since we were unable to reach them, five refugee representatives and some local officials from Bekam travelled by canoe and on foot over the weekend to meet UNHCR staff in the village of Bedoumia. Bedoumia is about 10 km from Bekam. They also met with officials from the CNAR - Chad's national refugee authority - and the Chadian Red Cross.
This is the first time that we've have direct contact with this group of refugees since they crossed over to southern Chad from CAR three weeks ago. The refugees said they fled their villages in northern CAR, mainly in the canton of Bedan in the Papoua region, because of the deteriorating security situation. They told of attacks by unidentified, heavily armed groups and of cattle breeders who graze their animals on their fields.
Relocation of the 2,000 refugees is going to be extremely difficult and may require the use of canoes because Bekam is now an island. At present, only one, 10-seat canoe is available in Bekam, so we're looking for other possibilities to rent boats in the regional centre of Goré, 15 km from Bedoumia. The transfer of the refugees is all the more urgent because they are currently dependent on the generosity of the local villagers in Bekam. Sanitation is also a concern there.
Once transferred from Bekam to Bedoumia by boat, the refugees will be temporarily housed in Amboko camp until a new site is developed. The Chadian government agreed to the construction of a new camp in the south and UNHCR has proposed a site at Bedamara, about 10 km from the existing settlement at Amboko. Amboko is already hosting 23,000 refugees from CAR and is close to its maximum capacity of 27,000. A UNHCR site planner will travel to Goré this week to begin layout preparations in Bedamara.
There are presently 40,000 to 45,000 refugees from CAR in southern Chad.