UNHCR airlifts 110 tonnes of aid to replace looted stocks in Chad
ABECHE, Chad, December 1 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has airlifted 110 tonnes of emergency relief supplies to the Chadian capital of N'Djamena as part of an urgent effort to replace stocks looted from the main UNHCR depot here in the eastern town of Abéché last weekend.
The UNHCR-chartered Antonov 124 from Accra in Ghana on Wednesday 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, was reported calm on Friday and daily activities among the local population were slowly resuming following last weekend's unrest.
"The overall situation in Abéché is far from normal, however, with regular military movements within the town," chief spokesman, Ron Redmond, said in Geneva, citing UNHCR staff in Abéché. "Security conditions in outlying areas remain unclear, with various reports of ongoing military movements."
Chadian rebels occupied the town on November 25 before retreating. During the turmoil, aid warehouses in Abéché were plundered, reportedly by town residents.
The local authorities have helped recover some of the looted aid supplies.
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 this remains only a fraction of the relief items taken.
A total of 145 humanitarian workers from various UN agencies and aid organisations 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, while also 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," said Claire Bourgeois, UNHCR's deputy representative for operations in eastern Chad. "This means we do not have road access to six refugee camps 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," she added.
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.
UNHCR teams in both Chad and West Darfur are 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.
On Thursday, a group of armed men attacked the village of Agourtoulou, 11 kms south of Kerfi. Five people were reportedly killed, including the village imam.
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.
On Wednesday in Goz Beida, the compound of a non-governmental organisation 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.
By Hélène Caux in Abéché, Chad