Due to insecurity in eastern Chad over recent months -- many humanitarian agencies were forced to sharply reduce their staffs there. But now, OXFAM says it’s sending staff back into the region this week.
Nick Ireland is a regional humanitarian coordinator for OXFAM. From Dakar, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the security situation in eastern Chad.
“We had to relocate some of our staff at the end of November when there was an upsurge in the conflict in eastern Chad and things became impossible to operate in a safe environment. That was some months ago… as the conflict goes on the needs increase, especially with concern to the displaced…and at the moment we’ve taken the decision that it’s imperative we get the teams back on the ground to actually work for these people, who are building up in areas and need essential services. So, while the security is still far from excellent, we believe we can manage the situation and still respond to the needs of the displaced in the areas,” he says.
OXFAM, when at full strength, has 33 international staff members and about 150 national staffers in eastern Chad. The organization helps supply water and sanitation to tens of thousands of people in two large refugee camps, as well as for many thousands of displaced Chadians. Most of OXFAM’s work centers on the Goz Beda area.
Asked whether security has improved if OXFAM personnel are returning, Ireland says, “I’m not sure whether we can term it really as improved security. It’s very dire the situation down there for all ngos, including OXFAM. It’s very difficult for us to access the population who are in need. What we saw was increased insecurity in November and a slight normalization of the situation in that the open confrontation between rebels and the government has reduced a bit, which has made it slightly easier for us to access some towns. But saying that, we still have virtually no road access anywhere due to security. So we’re totally reliant on the airplanes that the UN and other agencies run in eastern Chad.”
Ireland warns that funding is growing scare for both UN agencies and ngos working in eastern Chad.