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Dire Water Shortage In Eastern  Chad

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it’s trying to overcome a dire water shortage in eastern Chad. It says the shortage could undermine efforts to cope with additional refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region.

English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis talked with Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, who explained why it’s so hard to get water into eastern Chad. He says the region is extremely arid, with some areas desert and others semi-desert. He says, “There are a number of villages and small towns clustered around what little water supply there is and ever since this refugee movement began in Darfur, we’ve really been struggling to find enough water to sustain a much bigger population in an area that can’t really handle that population.”

Mr. Colville says the region is already filled to capacity, with 200,000 refugees who have fled the violence over the year. He says drilling equipment has been shipped to eastern Chad and dozens of boreholes and wells have been dug in and around the 11 refugee camps.

In addition, the areas has received stocks of tents, sheeting, and blankets but, “the trouble is water. Water is just key. You can bring all the materials you want, but if you don’t have water to drink, then it’s no good,” says Mr. Colville. He explains that the UNHCR is now using remote-sensing technology, including satellite and radar images, to locate and develop new water sources. But he says the situation is critical.

Mr. Colville says Darfur is a better place for the refugees. There they had their own water supply. The hope now is that the refugees can return to Darfur, where water supplies already exist.