UN officials say the deteriorating security situation in eastern Chad is threatening its “fragile life-line” to more than 100-thousand refugees.
Helene Caux is with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From the town of Abeche in eastern Chad, she told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua:
“The security situation has gone (sic) very volatile in the past two weeks. And basically, following an attack on Abeche at the end of November and most recently on the town of Guereda, we decided to reduce our staff in the three locations to the strict minimum. We are basically relocating all international and local staff out of three locations, Iriba, Bahai and Guereda, mainly for security reasons.”
Caux says the UNHCR wants to make it clear it will do its best to help the many Darfur refugees in Eastern Chad. “It doesn’t mean we are abandoning the refugees, not at all. In the past days, we have been activating contingency plans in the three locations…it means we’ve been pre-positioning food and non-food items around the camps. And we’ve also been in touch with our partners and local staff, which will remain on the ground, so that they can allow the camps to continue functioning,” she says.
It’s believed the camps could remain “autonomous” for one month. Due to the insecurity, the UNHCR has also had to put on hold plans to move many of the refugees away from the Sudan border, where many Arab militia attacks on villages have taken place, as well as fighting between Chadian government forces and rebels.