UNHCR airlifted 110 tonnes of emergency relief supplies from our regional stockpile in Ghana into the Chadian capital of N'Djamena on Wednesday as part of an urgent effort to replace some US$1.3 million of relief items looted from our main warehouse in the eastern town of Abéché last weekend. The UNHCR-chartered Antonov 124 from Accra delivered 10,000 plastic sheets and 43,753 blankets. A further 10,000 plastic sheets, 108,000 blankets and 6,000 canvas tents from other destinations will be sent shortly by land.
Meanwhile, the security situation in Abéché, eastern Chad's capital, is reported calm and daily activities among the local population are slowly resuming following last weekend's unrest. Chadian rebels occupied the town on Saturday, then government forces returned on Sunday. During the turmoil, aid warehouses in Abéché were plundered, reportedly by local residents. The overall situation in Abéché is far from normal, however, with regular military movements within the town. Security conditions in outlying areas remain unclear, with various reports of ongoing military movements.
We are grateful to local authorities in Abéché for their help in recovering some of the looted aid supplies. The authorities have told town residents that they should return what has been stolen. Some residents have left looted items in the streets for pickup by humanitarian agencies. The military has also conducted house-to-house searches. A few truckloads of materials have so far been returned, but it's still only a fraction of what was taken.
A total of 145 humanitarian workers from various UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have been temporarily relocated from the east to N'Djamena, via Abéché. Another 98 people are still registered to depart the town. Several humanitarian planes are scheduled today to continue the transfer.
UNHCR is keeping essential staff in the region, which means we've reduced by about a third. At the same time, we're bringing in some specialists in logistics and supply to ensure that the vital aid lifeline to 218,000 refugees in 12 eastern camps near the border with Darfur continues, as well as for some 90,000 internally displaced Chadians.
We are very concerned that the road from Abéché to the north - towards Guéréda, Iriba and Bahai - is now completely cut off because of security concerns. This means we do not have road access to six refugee camps (Kounongo, Mile, Am Nabak, Touloum, Iridimi and Oure Cassoni), which house a total of some 110,000 refugees. They have some supplies in place, but they need regular replenishment. We're exploring alternative routes to keep the aid channels open.
The situation also remains volatile in south-eastern Chad, where armed men on horseback attacked villagers two days ago near Daguessa and stole their cattle before reportedly heading towards Sudan. Several similar attacks were reported in the area, resulting in an exodus of 500 to 600 people across the border to West Darfur. Our teams in both Chad and Sudan (West Darfur) are presently checking the location of these Chadians. Gunfire was also reported around Koukou, near Goz Amir refugee camp, in a land dispute. Goz Amir has 18,000 refugees and some have told UNHCR they fear for their security. Yesterday (Thursday) a group of armed men attacked the village of Agourtoulou, 11 km south of Kerfi. Five people were reportedly killed, including the Imam of the village.
Dozens of villages in south-eastern Chad were burned and abandoned in November following a wave of inter-communal violence between Arabs and non-Arab tribes. The attacks resulted in the displacement of at least 15,000 people for the month around Goz Beida, Koukou Angarana and Koloy/Ade. In all, an estimated 90,000 Chadians have been displaced in the east over the past year.
On Wednesday, in Goz Beida, the compound of an NGO working with UNHCR was attacked by a group of about 100 young men who destroyed all equipment and slightly wounded 10 local staff. The attackers threatened humanitarians who would not hire people from Goz Beida town.
In addition to the 90,000 internally displaced Chadians and 218,000 Darfurian refugees in eastern Chad, UNHCR also cares for 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in southern Chad.