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Thousands of new Sudanese refugees registered in Chad

Thousands of new Sudanese refugees registered in Chad

Newly arrived Sudanese refugees have begun to register for urgent assistance. Teams from the UN refugee agency and Chadian authorities attempt to locate thousands of refugees scattered along the vast Chad frontier fleeing fighting in Sudan.
27 January 2004
Recent Sudanese arrivals at Djoran in the Chad border where thousands of refugees are scattered fleeing fighting in Sudan's Darfur region.

ADRE, Chad, Jan 27 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and Chadian authorities have started registering thousands of newly arrived Sudanese refugees in Chad so they can receive urgently needed assistance.

Since Sunday, 762 people have been registered in Kourbileke, 7 km from the border with Sudan; 1,074 in Ogona, 23 km inland; and 231 in nearby Kabrara. Registration also is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the frontier town of Tine, where 1,000 Sudanese had gathered. UNHCR and the Chadian refugee agency CNAR were to proceed today to Amdour, where local authorities have reported refugee arrivals from the Sudanese villages of Aboudidat, Aboudam and Abougamara.

Registration should be completed on Friday, and delivery of assistance to the refugees could start as early as next week.

"I have been wearing the same clothes since I left my house," said 37-year-old Abdelkerim in Kourbileke. "We hardly had time to take any belongings with us when we fled the attacks."

Abdelkerim is among 18,000 Sudanese who reportedly arrived in Chad over the last 10 days, fleeing renewed civil conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Local authorities had earlier said that some 95,000 Sudanese had arrived in Chad, scattered along 600 km of borderland.

The refugees in Kourbileke told UNHCR that 10 days ago, an Antonov plane and helicopters flew over Habila, a Sudanese village 2 km from the border, and bombed the only well in the area. Armed men then entered the village on horses and camels, stole cattle and chased the 1,750 inhabitants away, the refugees said. Habila is now empty. When other villagers heard the bombings in Habila, they gathered their belongings and headed for Chad.

UNHCR does not have a presence in Darfur and is unable to verify the refugee accounts.

The refugees are currently staying in a very arid and difficult environment. Some are out in the open, with only a few bushes as protection from wind and sand. Many lack even the most basic necessities. Gaining access to the refugees has proved difficult. UNHCR staff have spent several days searching the border, often driving hours in the bush before finding refugees. UNHCR is spreading the message to the refugees to gather at specific points so that registration can take place for quick distribution of aid.

Samira, a refugee mother, reported that her four young children are coming down with colds and fever from sleeping outside in temperatures as low at 5° Celsius at night.

Lack of water at Kourbileke is a major problem. Fourteen-year-old Fatima has to walk for 12 hours round trip to the nearest water source in Moudre. With eight jerry cans strapped to two donkeys, she can take 160 litres of water to last two days for the nine members of her family.

"There is so little water and also no soap," Fatima said. "I want something to eat, something to drink, some blankets, good shoes, some clothes and a mat to sleep on. What I miss most is my shoes and my clothes. These are the only things I have to wear,' she said, pointing to her dress.

The refugees have been surviving on food they brought with them when they fled, but their supplies are running out.

UNHCR is considering moving the refugees to Kounoungo, which has been identified as a possible camp site, as early as next week. Part of the site could be set up as a transit centre where the refugees would receive food and other assistance, such as blankets and soap, until the camp is ready to host them.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to relocate refugees from the border, with 826 people moved so far from Wandalou to the first established camp at Farchana. The next convoy is scheduled for Thursday. Refugees also began moving their livestock by foot to Farchana yesterday, accompanied by police. Points have been identified along the way where the refugees can get water and rest during the three-day journey.