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Darfur: high-level Sudanese government team investigates Masteri claims

Briefing notes

Darfur: high-level Sudanese government team investigates Masteri claims

24 August 2004

Following UNHCR's report last Friday that some 30,000 displaced Darfuris are considering crossing into Chad, the government of Sudan on Sunday sent a high-level delegation to the village of Masteri, 50 km south of El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, to investigate.

We participated in the visit by Sudanese security, military and humanitarian officials. Several thousand people who were displaced from outlying villages and had sought refuge in Masteri came out to meet the visitors. They reiterated what a smaller group told us last week - that attacks by armed militias are continuing even in Masteri, and that women are regularly being raped.

The Wali, or Governor, said it was unacceptable that a government could not protect its citizens, and promised immediate measures to beef up security. He promised more police cars, more soldiers and more policemen, and urged the displaced people to remain in their own country. They told us last week they would cross into neighbouring Chad as soon as the river which forms the border dries up if they did not get international protection.

Jean-Marie Fakhouri, UNHCR's Director of Operations for the Sudan Situation, who visited Masteri last week, welcomed the concern by the Sudanese government. He said the UNHCR team in El Geneina will continue to make frequent visits to Masteri and other border areas.

Meanwhile in Chad, we are set to start transferring some 200 refugees from the border at Birak to Kounoungou camp tomorrow. They are among the more than 400 refugees who have fled from Sudan since early August. Yesterday (Monday), UNHCR staff pre-registered 32 more refugees in addition to the 417 who were pre-registered the weekend of Aug. 14-15. The group is the largest to cross into Chad in about two months. About half of the refugees have indicated they do not want to go to a UNHCR camp at the moment for a variety of reasons. Some have planted crops in the area while others say they want to re-enter Sudan to see if they can save the family members and animals they left behind.

Further south along the Chad-Sudan border, UNHCR and WHO [World Health Organization] are conducting a joint mission today to Goz-Amer camp near Goz Beida in Chad to further investigate the causes of an outbreak of Hepatitis E in the camp. WHO has confirmed the outbreak, but health officials have been unable to determine the origin of the disease. Hygienic conditions in the camp are being closely monitored, and UNHCR has shipped 33,000 bars of soap to Goz Beida. UNHCR and WHO are also jointly preparing an instructional booklet for camp health workers on how to deal with the disease and prevent its spread.