Sudanese refugees receive urgent aid in Chad
ABECHE, Chad, Jan 6 (UNHCR) - More than 13,000 Sudanese refugees on the Chad-Sudan border have received emergency aid as the world slowly wakes up to an "invisible emergency" that has driven an estimated 95,000 people from western Sudan into eastern Chad.
The UN refugee agency and its non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners have been carrying out emergency distribution of food and relief items to some of the most vulnerable refugees encamped on the insecure border.
Between Friday and Monday, 13,250 people - mostly women and children - in the Birak, Senette and Feguerra areas of Birak canton, eastern Chad, received blankets, mats, jerry cans and some food, including cooking oil and sorghum. On Wednesday, UNHCR will start distributing emergency aid - including blankets from the UN Children's Fund - to other groups of 13,500 vulnerable refugees in the Djoran and Guimeze areas.
Women and children form the majority of the estimated 95,000 Sudanese who have arrived in eastern Chad after fleeing fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan since last April. Driven by militia raids, widespread looting and stealing of livestock, they fled on foot by night in small groups to avoid detection.
In Chad, many of the refugees have been living for months in flimsy, makeshift shelters along the volatile border. Desert conditions in this remote part of the country mean that temperatures are high in the day but can plunge to less than 10° Celsius at night.
According to UNHCR staff involved in aid distribution, some of the refugees had been forced to sell blankets and other possessions, including relief items distributed earlier, in order to feed their families. Thus the provision of both food and non-food items are essential to help them cope with the harsh living conditions.
At the same time, UNHCR and its partner agencies are working to relocate up to 9,000 refugees from the border to an inland camp, Farchana, by mid-January. German NGO Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) is currently drilling wells, building latrines and showers at the site. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland is in charge of water treatment while UNHCR is providing tents.
When the site is ready, refugees will be moved daily from the border on UNHCR and GTZ trucks. At Farchana, they will be formally registered, undergo medical screening, and receive a family site, blankets, mats, soap, jerry cans and food.
Other sites are being identified in the Adré and Guéréda areas of eastern Chad.