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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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For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

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New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

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WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

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Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

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