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Chad: security concerns, rains expected soon

Briefing notes

Chad: security concerns, rains expected soon

28 May 2004

Amid the first signs of the looming heavy rains that will impede aid operations for 125,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, UNHCR is battling to move as many refugees as quickly as possible away from the insecure border to camps inside Chad. More than 78,000 refugees have reached the seven camps so far.

We are concerned that the rainy season is going to considerably slow down these movements very soon. In a matter of weeks, many of the roads in eastern Chad will become impassable because of the rains. Yesterday, heavy rains fell for 45 minutes in the Abéché area. A UNHCR team on its way to Adré had to stop on one side of a riverbed, known locally as a "ouaddi," because of the strong water flow. Coincidently, another UNHCR team, which was returning to Abéché from Farchana camp, found themselves blocked on the other side of the same ouaddi. The second team had to abandon their car to avoid getting stuck in the mud and water, and crossed on foot to join their colleagues on the other side. This signals the sort of challenges we're going to face as the rainy season sets in.

UNHCR also remains concerned about the security situation for the refugees and the local population at the border. On Monday night, gunfire was heard near the village of Haraza, which is located at the border, near Tissi. In response to the shooting, the Chadian military reportedly pushed back what appeared to be a group of militia who were attempting to cross over into Chad, presumably to steal cattle as has been the case in earlier such incidents.

Meanwhile, our emergency airlift to bring in sufficient supplies to meet the needs of up to 150,000 refugees through the rainy season is in full swing. The flight from Denmark - an Ilyushin-76 - arrived in Chad on Wednesday with plastic sheeting, portable warehouses and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The first of nine flights bringing a total of 7,000 tents from Karachi, Pakistan, is scheduled to depart tomorrow. The airlift of trucks, parts, generators and relief supplies from Germany is planned for Sunday. These 11 flights will be followed by a series of flights with humanitarian aid from our stockpiles in Ngara, Tanzania.

A three-person team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] in the U.S. arrived on Wednesday in Abéché to participate in a nutrition and mortality survey for eastern Chad. The complete team of 18 experts will include the three CDC staff, one staff member from UNICEF, two from UNHCR, six from the Chadian Minister of Health, and six from local and international NGOs. The survey will cover refugees at the camps and along the border, as well as adjacent local populations. The data collected will be used to make recommendations to international agencies and organizations to improve the health situation in the region. The survey will also include data on global mortality rates and mortality rates among children from 6 months to 5 years old. The team will split up to cover the Bahai/Kariari area, and Iridimi, Touloum and Kounoungo camps. The survey is expected to last until June 22.