Over 80,000 relocated in Chad as Darfur exodus continues
BAHAI, Chad, June 1 (UNHCR) - As the exodus from Sudan's Darfur region continues, UNHCR is rushing to assist hundreds of recent arrivals near the Chad-Sudan border in a massive operation that has already moved more than 80,000 refugees to camps in eastern Chad.
Given the sheer distances involved, it has been hard for the UN refugee agency and its partners to monitor new arrivals at every point along a 600-km stretch of border between western Sudan and eastern Chad, where an estimated 125,000 refugees have sought refuge after fleeing fighting in the Darfur region since early last year.
However, between 200 and 300 new arrivals have been reported weekly in north-eastern Chad's Bahai town, already home to more than 14,000 refugees from earlier influxes. UNHCR and other aid agencies are currently distributing sorghum, oil and beans provided by the UN World Food Programme.
Further south along the border, another 250 new refugees have been reported in Senette after fleeing militia attacks on their villages in the Sudanese canton of Siliate on May 22. They told MSF-Belgium that as the militia began looting the houses, the women fled with their children and walked all night before reaching the border. These refugees have been living in makeshift shelters that they built around trees and are now running out of food.
UNHCR is pre-registering them today before relocating them tomorrow to Mille camp, where they will receive regular assistance.
The refugee agency is also negotiating with local Chadian authorities to extend the existing camp at Kounoungo so that it can accommodate another 4,000 refugees. There is enough water, which is scarce in this semi-arid region, to cater for more than 12,000 refugees at this camp.
In all, 80,914 Sudanese refugees have been moved from various border sites to seven camps further inland in eastern Chad since UNHCR began the relocation operation in mid-January. These convoys will continue until the seasonal rains make roads impassable for trucks carrying passengers and aid.
In the meantime, UNHCR is racing against time to deliver relief supplies like blankets and plastic sheeting to last 150,000 refugees through the upcoming rainy season. Airlifts are currently underway from Germany and Pakistan, with stocks set to arrive from Tanzania next week.