New site for displaced people opened in West Darfur
EL GENEINA, Sudan, February 26 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and its partners have established a new site in the West Darfur region of Sudan to accommodate up to 6,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). A first group of 143 families, or about 500 people, are expected to move in on Wednesday.
The new camp, named Abu Zar II, is located just outside the West Darfur capital of El Geneina and it will provide a haven for Sudanese who have been displaced more than once as well as the newly displaced.
The group due to move in tomorrow originally fled their home in Saref Jedad in January and found refuge in the village of Armankul. But general insecurity in the area earlier this month forced them to move again and some arrived at Riyad IDP camp near El Geneina.
Last week, UNHCR provided the IDPs from Armankul with sleeping mats, blankets and jerry cans, prior to a screening exercise to determine those that should be relocated to the new camp from Riyad, which is full. The 143 families were chosen from a bigger group of 222 families from Saref Jedad.
Upon their relocation to Abu Zar II, the IDP families will receive additional household items from UNHCR, such as plastic sheeting for shelter and cooking sets.
Meanwhile, UNHCR is taking part in joint UN follow-up assessment missions to Sirba, Sileah, Abu Suruj, Armankul, Kondobe, Saref Jedad and Tendelti - villages located in the so-called northern corridor which were the targets of this month's ground and air attacks.
In this area some 50-70 kilometres north of El Geneina, some displaced people are returning, despite the destruction. Humanitarian agencies will need to distribute food and other emergency assistance to these populations in the northern corridor, where fighting was reported on Monday.
"Civilians who were affected by the recent air raids in the northern corridor are not currently moving southwards to El Geneina. They mainly go to other villages or have been hiding in the Jebel Moun mountains," said Peter Trotter, senior UNHCR protection officer in El Geneina. "Many also appear to be attempting the dangerous journey to Chad in order to seek security."
UNHCR was on Monday able for the first time since last week to send an assessment team to eastern Chad's border with Sudan. The seven-member team went to the Birak area, where several thousand refugees have gathered since the latest attacks in West Darfur began on February 8.
Team members, who will spend three days assessing the needs of the newly arrived refugees, said on Tuesday that more people had crossed into Chad over the weekend, following renewed militia attacks in Jebel Moun area.
"The latest group of arrivals in Birak and Seinat told us that after their IDP camps and villages were attacked by Antonov planes and bombarded last week, they fled north," one staff member said, adding that the refugees said the militiamen had burned their remaining villages last Friday. "That prompted them to flee towards eastern Chad."
Catherine Huck, UNHCR's deputy representative in Chad, noted that the latest arrivals were mainly women, children and the elderly, adding that many were highly traumatized." We also noticed that refugees who were at the border a week ago have moved further into Chad, away from the volatile border," Huck said.
Even though some refugees have briefly gone to their homes over the border to collect a few belongings, they said they do not want to return to Darfur at this stage. UNHCR has been talking to the Chad authorities about the possibility of moving the refugees to one of 12 camps housing 240,000 Sudanese in eastern Chad.
The agency is concerned about the welfare of the new arrivals. The refugees are suffering from exposure to the harsh weather, living in the open, with cold winds affecting especially children and the elderly. Two refugee women and two children died on Monday because of the cold.
Wounded refugees among the new arrivals have been transported to health centres in Birak. The UNHCR team saw several injured people, including a five-year-old girl from the Sileah IDP camp in Darfur with shrapnel in her stomach. The team also reported cases of sexual violence and abuse committed against refugee girls and women by militiamen in Darfur.
The vast majority of the new refugees in Chad have been displaced once or twice in West Darfur since fighting erupted in the area in 2003. All of them fear going back to Darfur and have asked to be moved further inland into Chad.