Cameroon: Many Chadians feel return is not yet safe

Briefing Notes, 26 February 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 February 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

An Ilyushin-76 cargo plane chartered by UNHCR is getting ready to leave tomorrow (Wednesday) from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Garoua in Cameroon 800 km north of the capital Yaoundé. The plane will transport 40 tonnes of relief items for distribution to thousands of Chadian refugees who have fled earlier this month from the Chadian capital N'Djamena to the town of Kousséri, on the Cameroon side of the Chari river.

This is the third airlift organized by UNHCR with relief items for Chadian refugees in Cameroon. Two similar flights took place earlier this month from Dubai to Garoua, bringing 90 tonnes of much-needed relief items such as blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, jerry cans and soap. The plane on Wednesday will also carry water bladders and tents. Relief assistance will be transported by trucks from Garoua to Maltam 1 refugee camp, 32 km away from Kousséri.

In Kousséri, we now have transported 5,523 Chadian refugees from Madana transit site, churches and schools in town to Maltam 1 camp. Additional convoys are scheduled for the coming days. In total, 4,600 families comprising around 20,000 persons have registered with UNHCR and indicated their intention to stay for the time being in Cameroon.

Up to 30,000 Chadians fled unrest in N'Djamena earlier this month and found refuge in Kousséri. Although many have gone back to their homes in the Chadian capital, many others do not feel that it is completely safe to do so.

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Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

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Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Cameroon: A Young Victim of ViolencePlay video

Cameroon: A Young Victim of Violence

Militia attacks on civilians in Central African Republic have left many people, including children, dead or badly injured. Six-year-old Ibrahim is recovering from one such attack, lucky to be alive.
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Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.