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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




UNHCR country pages

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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