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UNHCR starts moving displaced families from Darfur to safer areas of Chad

News Stories, 23 April 2013

© UNHCR/D.Mbaiorem
Sudanese refugees from Darfur find shelter under one of the trees in the remote Chad border town of Tissi, where conditions are tough.

TISSI, Chad, April 23 (UNHCR) Every tree in this remote border town provides shelter to a family from nearby Darfur, but despite the harsh conditions the displaced civilians arriving in south-east Chad are happy to have escaped from the tribal conflict in recent weeks across the border.

UNHCR and its partners have been providing assistance to new arrivals, like 30-year-old Khadjidja and her three children, and the refugee agency has also started moving thousands of civilians, mainly women and children, to camps deeper inside Chad.

Members of a UNHCR team sent to open a temporary office in Tissi have monitored the arrival of some 23,000 Sudanese refugees ahead of their full registration in camps. A further 16,000 people originating from Chad have also come across the border.

Khadjidja left her village after fierce fighting erupted in early March between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes in and around the West Darfur town of Um Dukhun over control of gold mines. "We left our village when it was torched and looted," she said, adding that it took two days to walk to Tissi. "My husband stayed behind to save some of our belongings before joining us."

Like so many others, she came with almost nothing to this semi-arid region of south-east Chad, where the temperatures soar during the day before dipping under 20 degrees Celsius at night. Generous host communities have taken in many people, but they cannot share their homes and resources with everyone.

"Under every tree, there is a family," noted Abdellahi Ould El Bah, UNHCR's emergency coordinator in Tissi. "The refugees are exposed to the wind and sun during the day and are cold at night," he said, adding that many did not even have blankets.

He said some refugees had been drinking from a river, putting themselves at risk of catching waterborne diseases.

The UNHCR team deployed in Tissi includes experts in water, sanitation and hygiene as well as protection, registration and logistics officers. The team members have been working with Chad government officials to monitor the arrivals along a 60-kilometre stretch of the border and move them to safer areas.

"As a security measure, UNHCR is relocating 5,000 of them to the Goz Amer camp [some 230 kilometres to the north] where we can better provide them with protection and assistance," said Aminata Gueye, UNHCR's representative in Chad. She added that a new camp for 25,000 people might be constructed at Sterena, 25 kms north of Goz Beida, the largest town in the south-east.

Since mid-April, three UNHCR convoys have taken about 600 people to Goz Amer. The trucks are also transporting the few belongings that people were able to bring with them.

On arrival in Goz Amer, the refugees are given a monthly dry food ration by the World Food Programme and non-food items from UNHCR, including mosquito nets, jerry cans, blankets, mats, soap and kitchen sets. New shelters have been constricted for the arriving families. Additionally, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is extending the camp's water distribution network to these areas.

On the tenth anniversary of the start of the Darfur conflict and displacement crisis, a series of camps in eastern Chad are providing shelter for almost 300,000 Sudanese refugees. Khadjidja is just starting life in exile, but she told UNHCR that she did not want to return to Darfur.

By Djerassem Mbaiorem in Tissi, Chad

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International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, "What is the most important thing you brought from home?" The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets - things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

When fighting erupted in Kormaganza, Blue Nile state, in September last year, 80-year-old Dawa Musa's family decided to flee to the neighbouring village of Mafot. Dawa was too frail to make the two-day journey by foot, so her son, Awad Kutuk Tungud, hid her in the bush for three days while he moved his wife, Alahia, and nine children to safety. Awad returned for his mother and carried her to Mafot, where the family remained in relative safety for several months - until artillery began shelling the village.

Awad again fled with his family - this time across the border to South Sudan. For 15 gruelling days, he carried both his elderly mother and his daughter Zainab on his back, until they reached the border crossing at Al Fudj in February. UNHCR transported the family to Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. They lived in safety for seven months until heavy rains caused flooding, making it difficult for UNHCR to bring clean water to the camp and bringing the threat of highly contagious waterborne diseases.

UNHCR set up a new camp in Gendrassa, located 55 kilometres from Jamam and on higher ground, and began the relocation of 56,000 people to the new camp. Among them were Awad and his family. Awad carried his mother once again, but this time it was to their new tent in Gendrassa camp. Awad has plans to begin farming. "Come back in three months," he said, "and there will be maize growing."

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

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