The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) is launching a supplementary appeal for more than $6 million to pay for protection and assistance programs for up to 150,000 internally displaced people in eastern Chad. This is in addition to a previous appeal for nearly $70 million for 220,000 refugees from Sudan's conflict ridden province of Darfur and another 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
For years, Chad has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur and the Central African Republic. Now, Chad also has been sucked into the insecurity that is spreading throughout the region. And, the numbers of Chadians forced to flee their own homes because of brutal attacks on villages are growing.
The U.N. refugee agency estimates 120,000 people are now internally displaced. But, Spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, says that figure is likely to rise. So, the new appeal is aimed at providing help for up to 150,000 people this year.
"It covers a variety of needs and assistance including transferring up to 20,000 IDPs [Internally Displaced People] from makeshift spontaneous settlements to more organized sites, regular UNHCR missions to IDP settlements and assistance to victims of gender-based violence, family tracing, profiling of displaced populations and monitoring of return of some 150 villages along with the provision of emergency shelter and other non-food relief items," she said.
The displacement began in late 2005 and worsened in 2006 with a series of bloody inter-ethnic attacks. This has been aggravated by competition for scarce water, grazing land and other resources.
The UNHCR notes the attacks in eastern Chad mirror the pattern of violence in Sudan's Darfur region. It says armed, mainly Arab men on horseback and camels attack and burn African villages. They destroy crops, steal cattle, terrorize villagers and kill many inhabitants.
Pagonis says the security situation in eastern and southern Chad is very volatile. She says operating in this hostile security environment is incredibly difficult for humanitarian workers.
"We are already operating more or less on a minimal staff based in eastern Chad, because of the security situation," she added. "Not just these inter-ethnic conflicts, but also fighting between the rebels and the government. So, it makes it incredibly difficult and also because these IDPs are scattered in villages throughout eastern Chad, but reaching them and finding out what is going on is by no means easy."
The World Food Program says it plans to provide food assistance to 110,000 displaced people in Eastern Chad. The agency feeds 224,000 Darfurian refugees in 12 camps as well.
WFP says it is working to pre-position as much food as possible before the rainy season begins and road travel becomes virtually impossible.