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UNHCR completes relocation of thousands of Darfur refugees to Chad camp

News Stories, 14 June 2013

© UNHCR/R.Schoeffl
Refugees in Tissi wait to board trucks that will take them to the Ab Gadam camp.

TISSI, Chad, June 14 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has completed the relocation of thousands of Darfur refugees from the volatile border area of Tissi in south-east Chad to a newly opened camp, Ab Gadam, deeper inside the country.

The last convoy left Tissi three days ago. In total, UNHCR and its partners moved 7,161 people over the past month most of them women, children and elderly refugees. Some 3,086 other refugees travelled to Ab Gadam by foot and on donkey carts. These people fled inter-communal conflict in Darfur.

In addition to the urgency of moving refugees for safety reasons Tissi is also prone to bad weather. The skies are dark and the first new storms and heavy winds of the May-November wet season have hit the region, which is strewn with wadis that flood in the coming months and make roads impassable.

"Our main priority was to move refugees away from the border as long as roads are still usable. We have used all resources in the region and transferred refugees six days a week," said Djamal Zamoum, UNHCR's emergency coordinator in Tissi, describing the race against time to complete the move. .

"We are now turning our attention to other Darfur refugees scattered across 18 additional remote sites in the border area. A first convoy departed from Haraza village yesterday with 270 refugees. Our aim is to complete all transfers before the wadis are flooded," a UNHCR spokesperson added.

The refugees at these sites have been living in makeshift shelters with barely any protection against sun and rain. The local population share their few resources with them. Once heavy rains start, refugee locations will become cut off.

In the new Ab Gadam camp, UNHCR and its partners have been preparing for the rainy season. Staff are distributing food and non-food rations and UNHCR is pre-positioning relief items. On arrival, people like Mariam, receive relief items such as jerry cans, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets. New arrivals are also given material to build a shelter and the most vulnerable are helped by UNHCR's partners.

Mariam fled to Tissi in mid-May with her two children and her father after their village in Darfur was attacked and torched. "I just took my kids and ran," recalled the young woman, who has had no word from her husband and mother. She prays they will turn up.

Mariam did not feel safe at the border, where she could hear the sound of artillery, and so she was happy to move to Ab Gadam. "This is a good place for my children," she said on arrival there. "They can drink clean water and they can play outside without any worries."

Meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners have moved offices from Tissi to Bir Nahal, just 12 kilometres from the camp. Being close to the camp will allow the agency to maintain delivery of aid to refugees throughout the rainy season and to respond to needs.

Two temporary medical posts have been opened and UNHCR´s health partners will start to treat refugees locally. Before the move, refugees in need of treatment had to be taken to the main Tissi health post nearly 30 kilometres away.

While Ab Gadam is safer and easier to access, parts of the camp are prone to flooding. "We are therefore sensitizing refugees to settle only in designated areas and redirected those who are occupying flood-prone areas to safer grounds," said the UNHCR spokesperson.

The refugee agency is also working with its partners to provide sufficient clean water for all the refugees in Ab Gadam. Until last week, aid agencies had to truck water from the Tissi river and make it safe for consumption. UNHCR has started trucking in water from a nearby lake.

Since January, it is estimated that some 30,000 Darfuris have crossed into south-eastern Chad. The first wave of refugees fled conflict over gold mines in northern Darfur between the Binheissin and Rizeigat tribes, while a later group crossed because of communal violence between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes in Um Dukhun, an area of West Darfur lying just seven kilometres north of Tissi.

By Ruth Schoeffl in Tissi, Chad

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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.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

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.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

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

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

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

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