Looting of warehouses and fighting between government forces and rebels in eastern Chad has disrupted operations of the UN refugee agency. Helene Caux is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. She’s in the town of Abeche, site of the weekend fighting and looting. Via satellite phone, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about conditions there.
“The situation now remains very volatile and very unstable in the east. The situation is relatively calm in Abeche, which was attacked last Saturday by the rebels. It has been retaken by the governmental forces. But we still hear shooting outside Abeche. And we have information, according to which, there are still a lot of military movements including rebel and Chadian army movements,” she says.
Caux says that the UNHCR is receiving similar reports of military activity near the town of Goz Beda near the Sudan border.
The UNHCR’s warehouse in Abeche was severely looted over the weekend, as government forces and rebels battled for the town. That, plus the ongoing fighting, is having an effect on the UN agency’s humanitarian operations.
“We’re still trying to limit the impact of insecurity on our assistance to the refugees and to the displaced Chadians, as well. However, we’ve had to reduce the presence of our staff in Abeche as well as in our field offices…we’re all basically in a crisis situation,” she says. UNHCR staff have emergency bags packed in the event they have to leave the area quickly.
About 90,000 Chadians have been displaced since early November when Arab militias started attacking villages. Many Chadians have traveled to Goz Beda. The displacement’s been made worse by the most recent fighting.