UNHCR team to help ease "invisible emergency" in eastern Chad
GENEVA, Dec 23 (UNHCR) - As large numbers of Sudanese refugees continue arriving in eastern Chad, the UN refugee agency today announced plans to move an initial group of 10,000 from the volatile border to a safer site further inland.
This month alone, an estimated 25,000 Sudanese refugees have fled fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region and entered eastern Chad, bringing the total influx since April to 91,000 people. Most of them have been living in makeshift camps along the Chad-Sudan frontier, where cross-border incursions are common.
"If ever there were an 'invisible' emergency, this is it," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond at a news briefing in Geneva Tuesday. "Chad's eastern border region with Sudan is very remote and difficult to reach. The refugees are scattered along a 600-km stretch of the border and have received little international help or attention. Many are in poor health and living in makeshift sites near the volatile Chad-Sudan border, making it all the more urgent that they be moved further inland."
He noted that UNHCR is sending an eight-member emergency team to eastern Chad next week to prepare the transfer of thousands of Sudanese refugees to a site at Farchana, about 55 km from the border. The site will need water wells and a basic road network before it can be ready for an initial group of 10,000 refugees in mid-January.
The refugee agency is also looking at other possible sites for relocation in Chad. In the meantime, it has distributed emergency relief aid to more than 10,000 vulnerable refugees along the border.
Some estimates place the number of internally displaced Sudanese in the Darfur region at over 600,000. This displacement is only the latest in 20 years of civil conflicts that have uprooted more than 4 million people inside Sudan, and driven another 570,000 into neighbouring countries.