The security situation is calm this morning in the eastern Chad town of Abéché, scene of turmoil over the weekend when it was briefly occupied by Chadian rebels and then re-taken by government troops. Abéché is the centre of our operations in eastern Chad, but those operations are in danger of being severely affected by the looting of our warehouse, apparently by local residents, over the weekend. We lost 80 percent of stocks - see yesterday's press release for details.
The security situation outside Abéché remains uncertain, with reports of rebel presence as well as the Chadian military. Movements are also reportedly occurring north of Abéché in the Am Zoer area, on the road to Guéréda. This, too, has an impact on what humanitarian agencies can do in the east, where we've got some 300,000 refugees and displaced Chadians to care for.
Given the security restrictions and uncertainty, we are in the process of temporarily relocating some non-essential international staff from the east of Chad, including in Abéché and in our field offices. We have 95 international staff present in Chad, including 67 in the east. At the same time, we will bring in some more international specialists, including logistics and supply people, who are absolutely essential right now because of the loss of so many of our supplies in the looted Abéché warehouse over the weekend. We need to quickly get back up to adequate levels so there will be no break in the aid pipeline.
Since November 26, the day after the attack on Abéché, 179 persons have registered at the French military base in Abéché to leave - including 25 from UN agencies (the rest being from NGOs). Out of this number, 31 persons have been relocated to N'Djamena, Chad's capital. Another plane, is scheduled to leave today with 40 persons, and a UNHCR plane is also expected. Family members of international staff working in N'Djamena had been relocated to Yaoundé, Cameroon, at the end of last week.
Activities within the refugee camps in the east are ongoing, but the volatile security situation could have an impact on our assistance to the refugees in the near future. We have also had to reduce our monitoring activities in the east, especially in the Guéréda area where Darfur refugees have arrived recently from the Djebel Moon area.
In Abéché, inventories are being carried out following the weekend looting of our warehouses. The UNHCR warehouse is managed by the German agency GTZ. We estimate that the warehouse contained US$1.3 million worth of relief items, including blankets, tents, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, stoves, mats and medical supplies. All of these items were supposed to be distributed to the refugees in the camps. Even the wheels of humanitarian vehicles parked at the warehouse were removed, along with batteries. All spare parts for our entire fleet of some 200 vehicles were taken. All electronic office equipment was stolen.
The authorities in Abéché have called on the looters to return stolen items, leaving them in the streets to be collected by aid agencies and the army. So far, however, we've only recovered a very small number of items.
Meanwhile, a delayed aid distribution was begun yesterday for recently displaced people on the outskirts of Goz Beida. WFP has distributed food rations and UNHCR and its partners provided non-food items such as plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, water, family kits and soaps. More will be distributed today. UNHCR estimates that at least 15,000 Chadians have been displaced since the beginning of November following inter-communal attacks in south eastern Chad, which brings the total number of displaced in eastern Chad to 90,000 people within the past year.