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ICRC Steps Up Humanitarian Operations in Chad

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is stepping up aid operations in Eastern Chad to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis. The Red Cross says the number of internally displaced people in Chad is rising due to increasing violence from various warring factions. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

People in Eastern Chad have to contend with the armed conflict between rebel groups and government forces, as well as inter-ethnic clashes between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders over water. They also are subject to cross-border raids from armed men in Sudan who attack their villages and loot their possessions.

Director of Operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Pierre Kraehenbuhl says the combination of these violent events is increasing insecurity and causing many people to flee their homes.

"If I look over the past 15 months, but maybe even more so over the last six, there has been an increase in the number of people affected by the violence and the clashes in Eastern Chad," he said. "We are seeing more people being displaced. And, I think there is, of course, a risk that the numbers would rise further, that would lead us and others to adapt the operation. I think we have to be prepared for that."

The ICRC estimates 100,000 Chadians are internally displaced. More than 200,000 Sudanese refugees have fled from the conflict in Darfur and are living in 12 camps near the internally displaced and resident population.

Kraehenbuhl says he has seen an increase of tension among those groups competing for the same scarce resources. He says the Red Cross cannot ignore the needs of the impoverished resident population when providing assistance to the internally displaced people.

"If one would focus only on the needs of the IDP's that would be a potentially generating factor for new tensions because the residents themselves live in conditions in Eastern Chad and that are very, very modest and they are difficult," he said. "We are entering now the heart of the dry season. One has to imagine that there are people there as residents who already have very little for their own needs and have very little, for instance, access to safe water."

Kraehenbuhl says the Red Cross makes sure water and other aid and development projects for internally displaced people also benefit the resident population.

The Red Cross provides items such as food, seeds, farming tools and household goods for 40,000 homeless people. Its other activities include medical care for war wounded and visits to detainees.