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Eastern Chad: Transfer of refugees from Darfur to safer locations due to start Thursday

Briefing notes

Eastern Chad: Transfer of refugees from Darfur to safer locations due to start Thursday

4 March 2008

We are continuing to provide emergency aid to small groups of Sudanese refugees from West Darfur who are arriving in the Birak and Korok areas in eastern Chad and plan to start transferring the most vulnerable of refugees on Thursday to safer inland camps. They will be taken from the volatile border to Kounoungou and Mile refugee camps, 70 km away from the border near the Chadian town of Guéréda.

Some 13,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived in eastern Chad since Feb. 8, fleeing aerial bombing and ground attacks in West Darfur. Over the weekend, our teams at the border distributed emergency kits - including blankets - to refugees as most have been sheltering under trees for the past three weeks. A UNHCR team is currently in a Birak area village near the border informing refugees of the upcoming transfers to proper camps.

Refugees - mainly women and children - say they want to move to a refugee camp since their villages in Silea, Sirba, Abu Suruj and Jebel Moun areas in West Darfur were destroyed and burned in February. They also do not feel it is safe to return to Darfur at this point. Camps for internally displaced persons in those areas have also suffered from the attacks.

Pregnant women, children and the elderly will be the first to be transferred to Mile and Kounoungou. The two camps already host some 30,000 Sudanese refugees and can only absorb 10,000 additional people. Our teams have already started erecting temporary tents. Simultaneously, we will start working on the extension of both camps, including the construction of additional water points, latrines, community centres and classrooms for children.

UNHCR will provide refugees upon their arrival in the camps with a relief item package, including blankets, mats, jerry cans, mosquito nets, soap, plastic sheets and kitchen utensils. The World Food Programme will distribute food.

We and our partners will also be providing assistance to the local Chadian population near the border. They have generously shared what few resources they have with the refugees and we will be constructing new water points and improving health care facilities in the villages. We will also distribute seeds to tools to local farmers.

Some refugees are expected to want to remain close to the border so they can check on their properties on in Darfur. We will continue to provide some individual assistance to them.

UNHCR and its partners operate 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad which host 240,000 refugees from the war-torn Darfur region. An additional 50,000 refugees from the Central African Republic are in three camps in southern Chad.