The fighting in Chad has caused at least 20 thousand Chadians to flee to neighboring Cameroon and as many as three thousand to Nigeria. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Red Cross are providing assistance to the new arrivals in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, in eastern Chad, the UNHCR continues to provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people. Arnette Rehrl is a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency. From the town of Abeche in eastern Chad, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about whether the fighting in N’Djamena has affected operations near the border with Darfur.
“Yes, definitely, it has affected our operations. On Monday, we evacuated 47 UN international non-essential staff, and 99 staff of NGO partners also preferred to leave, which means that even though we are still continuing our assistance to the 240,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad and the 180,000 internally displaced Chadians, we have a reduced staff. In Abeche itself, our staff is also very much reduced. The work continues, but of course it’s more difficult. As far as the security situation is concerned, it’s still calm but obviously very, very tense. And especially for our colleagues, who have families in N’Djamena, the situation is very hard to bear because it’s very difficult to get real information of what’s going on in the capital,” she says.
Regarding the status of food operations, Rehrl says, “For the past few days, we went to the refugee camps and assistance continued. We have also done the food distribution for the month of February and we have information sessions with the refugee leaders. They are fully aware of what’s going on. They are of course very much concerned about the whole development and the situation. We are also concerned that staff and humanitarians are leaving, even though it’s just a temporary and preventive measure taken by the UN because so far we didn’t have any unrest except for the banditry we are already used to in eastern Chad. But nevertheless, the refugees are aware of the situation. They have been handed over more responsibilities to eventually take over and manage the camps for a short while.”
Rehrl says the UN re-evaluates the situation in the region every few hours to see whether any adjustments in operations need to be made.