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Red Cross Says Aid Must Reach Displaced in Chad Before Rainy Season


The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is critical that humanitarian assistance and especially seeds for planting reach thousands of displaced people in Eastern Chad before the start of this year's rainy season. Lisa Schlein reports from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports conditions in Chad have calmed down since opposition groups tried to topple the government in February. But, it says the security situation remains volatile in Eastern Chad, especially along the Sudanese border.

Most of the humanitarian organizations that were forced to leave Eastern Chad during the height of the security alert in February have returned. But, Red Cross Spokeswoman, Anna Schaaf, explains most humanitarian workers still are unable to reach needy people in many areas because of the prevailing dangers.

She tells VOA, this is an area where the ICRC has an advantage over other aid agencies. She says the ICRC can go to areas that are off-limits to others because it has good contacts with all parties involved in the conflict.

UN and other aid agencies are caring for some 250,000 refugees, mainly from the Sudanese Darfur conflict and another 150,000 internally displaced people in Eastern Chad.

Schaaf says all are needy, but the most destitute people are those who have been forced to leave their homes far away from their fields.

"The main problem is that if they are not able to plant this season, they will not obviously be able to harvest in October and November....The ICRC is basically trying to assist the people who have been forced to flee their homes very close by to the villages where they actually come from," Schaaf said. "So that, even though they cannot directly go back home, they still would have the possibility to go back to their fields and try to plant now."

Schaaf says the ICRC is preparing to distribute seeds and food for 60,000 people in Eastern Chad in the coming weeks. They are located in rural areas along the Sudanese border.

She says this area is particularly dangerous because of the inter-communal fighting that regularly erupts. She says many humanitarian organizations are deterred from going there because of rampant criminality and banditry.

She says the ICRC is one of the few organizations present there and, as such, it will be able to go ahead with its planned distribution of aid.

"This assistance is very carefully targeting the most vulnerable among the displaced people and the resident population," Schaaf said. "Because residents are also in a difficult position having to cope with the influx of displaced people in the area and the meager resources they have are already in a natural way in this area are difficult to share with an additional influx of people."

Schaaf says the operation must take place before the rainy season begins in May and June and access to the area is cut off. She says it will not be possible to move along the muddy terrain until the rains stop in August and September.