Rains affect refugee assistance in Chad's Bahai area
BAHAI, Chad, July 20 (UNHCR) - Rains and flooded riverbeds (wadis) are impeding UNHCR's work in north-eastern Chad as the agency rushes to relocate Sudanese refugees from the border to inland camps while seeking alternative routes to bring assistance to the refugees.
"Bahai region in the north is now completely cut off by flooded wadis," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing on Tuesday. "The seasonal riverbeds are turning into quagmires, slowing down the transport of food and non-food items as well as aid workers travelling in the area."
On Sunday, a UNHCR team travelling on a hired truck between Bahai and Tine - two Chadian towns near the border with Sudan - got stuck in a flooded wadi. It was eventually pulled out and made it to Tine, but the 75-km journey took eight hours instead of the usual one-and-a-half hours.
"Alarmingly, a local truck driver said that some years ago he couldn't cross the wadi between Tine and Bahai for 36 days," noted Pagonis. "He added that Bahai becomes pretty much inaccessible from the Tine road between August and October."
More than 6,400 refugees have been relocated on UNHCR convoys from Bahai to Oure Cassoni camp in the last week. Twice-daily convoys are continuing to move hundreds more to the inland camp, where they can receive shelter and regular assistance.
Before the transfer started, there were an estimated 15,000 refugees at Bahai and 11,000 at Cariari further north. UNHCR and the World Food Programme are exploring ways to bring assistance to the refugees in this area by alternative routes from Libya and from northern Chad through El-Fayed.
In all, more than 140,000 Sudanese refugees are now in UNHCR's camps in eastern Chad. Another 40,000 are still encamped at the border after fleeing the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region starting early last year.