Tuesday, May 5, 2009

70,000 the number of Central Africans fleeing to Chad to escape armed conflict over the past six years

TO BE NOTED: From Irin:

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-CHAD: Violence continues to drive out CAR families

Photo: Celeste Hicks/IRIN
Children from Central African Republic who are among the some 18,000 people who have fled to southern Chad since the beginning of the year
DAHA, SOUTHERN CHAD, 5 May 2009 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are racing to position food and other relief supplies for some 18,000 men, women and children from Central African Republic who fled to southern Chad, most of whom have taken refuge next to the border. Rains due in the coming weeks will cut access to the refugees, aid workers say.

Up to 100 Central Africans continue to pour into Chad each day, fleeing armed attacks on civilians and fighting between rebels and government forces in northern CAR.

“The rainy season has almost started and many of these roads [leading to the refugee sites] will become impassable,” Annette Rehrl, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Chad, told IRIN. “This basically means the refugees will be cut off.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a recent bulletin: “The situation is currently under control but access problems during the rainy season remain a worry for everyone.”

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UNHCR officials say the refugees will not be moved, despite the agency’s policy that a refugee camp should be at least 50km from a border. The village of Daha, where about 11,000 of the 18,000 refugees are living, is just metres from the Awok River, which forms the border between Chad and CAR.

The refugees will not be relocated, UNHCR’s Måns Nyberg told IRIN. The government has not agreed to designate a site for them and most of the refugees have said they want to stay close to the border, he said.

Mahamat Nour Abdoulaye, coordinator of the government National Commission for the Reception and Reinsertion of Refugees (CNAR), told IRIN that during CNAR missions to the area, refugees have said that they do not want to move.

“For now there is no plan to move the refugees. Were we to move them it would have to be to another department, some 200 kilometres away; they have said they prefer to stay where they are.”

He noted that currently the refugees are secure even with their proximity to the border.

Many refugees told IRIN they do not want to move farther inside Chad and leave behind relatives who are hiding in the bush in CAR.

Photo: Celeste Hicks/IRIN
Many of the refugees say they want to stay near the Chad-CAR border so as not to lose contact with relatives hiding in the bush in northern CAR
Refugees are also living in the border village of Massambagne, some 100km northeast of Daha. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) interim head of office in Daha, Ahmat Issa Outman, told IRIN: “We are most worried about Massambagne, where there is only one well for 1,000 locals and more than 1,000 refugees.”

The remaining refugees are in Betimera and Koi, farther north.

UNICEF and the NGO Solidarité are rushing to build wells before the rains come, aid workers told IRIN.

The UN World Food Programme has begun to pre-position food so it will be available when the rains arrive. Families recently received a two-month supply of maize flour, pulses and cooking oil, according to Jacques Baikita, UNHCR assistant protection officer in Daha.

Central Africans at Daha told IRIN that civilians have been caught in crossfire, with some accused by the government of supporting rebels.

The 18,000 refugees – who have fled in waves since January – bring to about 70,000 the number of Central Africans fleeing to Chad to escape armed conflict over the past six years.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs"

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