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UNHCR starts distributing aid to refugees on Chad-Sudan border

UNHCR starts distributing aid to refugees on Chad-Sudan border

The UN refugee agency has distributed plastic sheeting, blankets and jerry cans to an estimated 1,000 Sudanese refugees amid poor road and weather conditions in eastern Chad.
17 October 2003
UNHCR's emergency team visiting Sudanese refugee women at the Chadian border town of Tine.

ADRE, Chad, Oct 17 (UNHCR) - A first group of Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad has received relief supplies from the UN refugee agency despite delays caused by poor road and weather conditions.

On Thursday, UNHCR's emergency team started distributing basic relief supplies - plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets and jerry cans - to an estimated 1,000 Sudanese refugees in Kol Kol, some 25 km north of Adré and less than 5 km from the volatile Chad-Sudan border.

Most of the recipients were women and children who had been left behind when the refugee men fled inland with their livestock after a recent incursion by Sudanese Arab militia from across the border.

Thursday's aid delivery - which continues today - was delayed by three hours when the truck got stuck in the mud after picking up the relief items from a temporary warehouse in Abéché, the main town in eastern Chad. Some areas remain muddy and marshy, with impassable roads due to the rainy season.

Poor road conditions will likely hamper relief efforts for other refugees scattered along the border. Movements were extremely slow for UNHCR's emergency team when it spent the last few days visiting sites to determine how best to distribute aid. In some cases, the team spent an entire day just to visit one site - not because of long distances but because of poor roads.

Security is also a concern. UNHCR staff travelling in the area have to be accompanied by military escort due to the proximity to the border and general insecurity. This comes amid recent reports of bombing just across the border, in the Darfur region of Sudan. Refugees have told UNHCR that more people are still fleeing into Chad.

The refugee agency is working with local authorities to identify vulnerable groups in the Adré area, which hosts thousands of refugees in at least nine sites. These vulnerable refugees will receive assistance first, before a general distribution of relief items takes place.

Eventually, the agency hopes to move these refugees away from the border into locations further inland. It has also identified eight sites that will be assessed by the agency's site planner next week.

One crucial consideration is that water must be available before camps can be set up. For now, refugees get their water by digging holes in river beds, known locally as wadis. UNHCR hopes to reach an agreement with the government on the new camp sites before the river beds dry up in December.