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Chad: Arrivals from West Darfur continue

Briefing notes

Chad: Arrivals from West Darfur continue

29 February 2008 Also available in:

We estimate an additional 3,000 refugees from West Darfur have arrived in eastern Chad's Birak area over the past week, bringing to more than 13,000 the number of Sudanese believed to have fled to the remote area since fighting erupted on Feb. 8. A UNHCR team which reached the Birak area this week reported that the new arrivals fled the Jebel Moun region of West Darfur following repeated aerial and ground attacks by militia.

Another UNHCR mission that was scheduled to go to Birak area today was cancelled due to inter-ethnic clashes near Kulbus in eastern Chad, north of Birak. UNHCR staff in the Kulbus area yesterday saw black smoke rising from a burning village and saw armed men on horseback in the area.

The new arrivals in the Birak area are scattered among 11 locations around Birak and surrounding villages. Some refugee families have managed to move to other areas further inland in Chad, away from the volatile border and closer to water points. Water is a major problem in the area. The insecurity and close proximity to the Sudanese border mean UNHCR cannot establish a camp in the Birak area, but we are trying to provide emergency assistance when our teams can get there. We had planned to make another aid distribution today had our team been able to reach the region.

UNHCR is still awaiting approval from the government of Chad to move the refugees to our existing camps. We and our partners already operate 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad for 240,000 people uprooted by the five-year conflict in Darfur.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, we continue to bring additional supplies to assist the thousands Chadian refugees who fled unrest earlier this month in the Chad capital N'Djamena and have found refuge in Kousséri area. An Ilyushin-76 chartered by UNHCR left Copenhagen on Wednesday and landed yesterday (Thursday) in Garoua, bringing 42 tonnes of relief items including tents and water bladders. A second plane is expected to land today from Dubai, also bringing 42 tonnes of assistance items including tents, plastic sheeting, blankets, and jerry cans.

The aid supplies will be trucked to Kousséri and distributed to refugees in the nearby Maltam 1 camp. To date, we have moved 5,522 Chadian refugees from a transit site on the Cameroon side of the river border with Chad to Maltam 1 camp. An additional 1,000 refugees are being transferred today, and another 1,000 are expected to be moved over the weekend. Up to 30,000 Chadian refugees crossed earlier this month from N'Djamena to Kousséri. While thousands have returned to Chad, others remain fearful of return.