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Thousands of Sudanese set for third camp in inland Chad

Thousands of Sudanese set for third camp in inland Chad

The UN refugee agency is opening a third camp to relocate thousands of Sudanese refugees away from the Birak area of the Chad-Sudan border, with the first groups expected to move this weekend.
20 February 2004
Sudanese refugee women receiving wrist bands for registration at Wandalou prior to their transfer to Farchana camp.

N'DJAMENA, Chad, Feb 20 (UNHCR) - Thousands of Sudanese refugees are set to start moving over the weekend to a new camp in eastern Chad, the third inland site for refugees from the insecure Chad-Sudan border area.

The first group of refugees from Senette and Feguerra in the Birak border area of eastern Chad are scheduled to be relocated on Saturday to Kounoungo camp, where a transit centre has been completed. UNHCR has pre-positioned food for 2,000 people, including oil, sorghum and corn soya blend from the World Food Programme (WFP).

The convoy, expected to travel for three-and-a-half hours, will be escorted by the local gendarmerie and an ambulance from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-Belgium). Upon their arrival at Kounoungo, the refugees will be registered by the Chadian refugee agency, CNAR, and undergo medical screening by MSF-Belgium. They will then receive WFP food rations for 15 days, as well as relief items like blankets, mats, jerry cans and soap.

In the meantime, volunteers from the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services are continuing to reach out to refugees in the Birak area, telling them where they will go and what they can expect in Kounoungo. Close to 5,200 refugees have so far been registered around Birak.

The planned move to Kounoungo is part of urgent efforts to relocate Sudanese refugees away from the Chad-Sudan border, which has been threatened by bombings and militia incursions. An estimated 110,000 people have arrived in eastern Chad after fleeing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan since April last year.

So far, nearly 4,300 refugees have been relocated to two inland camps at Touloum and Farchana. UNHCR has suspended transfers to Touloum for a few days in order to register dozens of refugees who have walked to the site on their own in recent days, having heard that they can find food, water and security there.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin visited Farchana camp, where he was briefed on the situation and met some recent arrivals from the border area. He urged the international community to provide more assistance to the refugees, and stressed the urgency of relocating them away from the border before the rainy season starts.

While UNHCR and its partners are working quickly to expand, prepare and identify more sites for relocation, lack of water remains a big challenge. Water currently has to be trucked in to the sites, and UNHCR has just installed an additional water bladder at Touloum that can hold 15,000 litres. Altogether, the agency can deliver and stock up to 45,000 litres of water a day in Touloum, which is enough to cover the refugees' needs for now.

This weekend, UNHCR's partner, Norwegian Church Aid, is expected to receive additional water equipment to start drilling works at Touloum and Kounoungo, and preparatory work on a yet-to-be-completed site at Mile. Once completely equipped with water drills, the sites should be able to host up to 40,000 people.

Meanwhile, UNHCR airlifts continue to bring relief items into Abéché, the main city in eastern Chad, with more deliveries of supplies like blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting due to arrive over the weekend.