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Aid for Central African Republic refugees in south-eastern Chad

Briefing notes

Aid for Central African Republic refugees in south-eastern Chad

13 February 2009

After a three-day journey, a UNHCR team has reached thousands of Central African Republic (CAR) refugees in remote south-eastern Chad and has begun registering the new arrivals and providing them with emergency assistance.

Some 6,000 civilians, mostly women and children from the Rounga and Sara tribes in the CAR, have fled to Chad since December to escape attacks by rebel groups and fighting between the rebels and CAR government forces. Most are now stranded in and around the village of Daha, about a kilometre from the Chad-CAR border.

A convoy organized by UNHCR and other humanitarian aid agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), left for Daha from our aid hub in the eastern Chad town of Abéché last Friday. It arrived on Monday after a rugged journey of 932 kilometres.

A UNHCR emergency team from Geneva is expected to arrive in Daha tomorrow (Saturday).

On Tuesday, UNHCR staff began to register the refugees and to distribute assistance, including cooking utensils, shelter material, plastic sheeting, mats, mosquito nets and blankets. Most of the refugees have been sleeping out in the open. WFP handed out food rations for three weeks.

The team has also been assessing the immediate needs of the refugees, including potable water, latrine construction and the immunization of children under the age of five against measles and polio. Five refugee children have died of unknown causes, while two women have died while giving birth.

We are awaiting a decision from the Chadian government on proposals to move the new arrivals to a safer location with easier access for humanitarian agencies. The likeliest site for a new camp is in the area of Am Timan, some 280 km north of Daha.

Many of the refugees interviewed by UNHCR were still traumatized by their experience and not ready to go back. One refugee woman who crossed into Chad about two weeks ago with her three daughters and only the clothes on their backs, said the rebels killed five of her family members and burned her village in the Ngarba area.

Several waves of refugees have crossed into Chad over the past six years. UNHCR helps some 52,000 CAR refugees in five camps in southern Chad. UNHCR also runs 12 camps in eastern Chad that house a quarter-of-a-million refugees from Sudan's Darfur region. There are also more than 160,000 internally displaced Chadians.