The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is heading for Chad Wednesday. Humanitarian operations there are being severely strained by growing violence, both within the country and in neighboring Sudan.
Ron Redmond is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons for the high commissioner’s trip to Chad.
“Chad itself is really struggling under the weight of some 370,000 refugees and internally displaced people coming from both the Darfur region and Sudan, as well as from the Central African Republic. And on top of that, there has been increasing insecurity in eastern Chad, where most of these refugees are located. We’ve had over the past month some 300 people killed and about 70 villages attacked by marauders on horseback and camels, who operate exactly like the janjaweed (militia) do in neighboring Darfur, just across the border,” he says.
The situation has forced relief agencies to drastically curtail much of their programs and reduce staff. Redmond says, “All of this activity, including an insurgency against the (Chadian) government, is creating all sorts of problems for humanitarian agencies trying to take care of these hundreds of thousands refugees and now internally displaced Chadians.”
Redmond says the United Nations currently has before it a plan to send a security force to the area. However, he says no action has been taken on it since August. He says, “The very fragile humanitarian lifeline that goes to the refugees in these camps is being affected. It’s not severed yet, but we’re concerned that if this kind of insecurity, violence and unrest continues it’s going to make it almost impossible for us to operate in the region.”