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Central African Republic: Aid rushed to new Darfur arrivals

Briefing notes

Central African Republic: Aid rushed to new Darfur arrivals

12 June 2007

In the Central African Republic, UNHCR along with other UN agencies, is rushing supplies to 2,650 newly arrived refugees from south Darfur in Sudan, who are in a desperate condition in the east of the country where they have been surviving mainly on mangoes for the last few weeks. On Sunday, as part of a convoy of UN humanitarian aid from the capital Bangui, we sent shelter materials including 600 pieces of plastic sheeting, clothes, soap and 600 jerry cans to help the refugees in Sam Ouandja located near the border with Sudan.

The refugees began arriving in Sam Ouandja late May after fleeing repeated attacks on their home town of Dafak and surrounding villages in south Darfur. They said their homes were bombarded by planes and helicopters and they were attacked by men in military clothing. More than half of the refugees are children under 18 years, with the majority of the adult refugee population women, including 64 pregnant women and 147 mothers with newborn babies.

The refugees are rapidly running out of food and have only a nearby creek for their water supply resulting in a number of refugees falling ill with diarrhoea while others have malaria, according to a UN interagency assessment mission in the area last week. In response, UN agencies including WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and UNICEF sent on Sunday's convoy 80 metric tons of food, seeds and agricultural tools for 1,000 families, water purification sets, some medical supplies and other basic household items such as kitchen sets and education kits. WFP trucks carried the aid supplies, along with UNHCR's relief items, which is expected to take about 10 days to reach the refugees because of poor road conditions.

But as aid is urgently needed, WFP has scheduled 15 metric tons of high-nutrition biscuits to arrive in Bangui on Thursday, from where they will be flown to Sam Ouandja. A doctor from the World Health Organization is already at the site and two nurses are expected to leave today to the area.

In the next couple of days, UNHCR is planning to fly a small team to Sam Ouandja to register the newly arrived refugees, arrange for their safety in cooperation with local authorities and organize aid distribution. A site planner from Geneva is also expected to arrive shortly to improve the infrastructure of the site. Assistance, including seeds and agricultural tools, will also be distributed to the local population of Sam Ouandja who have recently suffered from violent conflict and displacement. In November 2006, the town was occupied for weeks by a rebel group and later retaken by the government forces, but hundreds of people are still displaced.

Despite extremely limited resources, the local population and authorities have welcomed the refugees, assigning a site to build temporary shelters and giving them what food they could spare.

CAR hosts some 10,000 refugees, mainly from Chad, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the northern part, there are also more than 212,000 people who have been displaced within the country.