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Aid to Darfur Refugees in Chad Continuing Despite Dangers

UN aid agencies say they are continuing to distribute aid to hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees from Darfur, who are now in Chad, despite the dangers. But, they say the armed confrontations that took place in refugee areas earlier this week have increased the dangers to both the refugees and their staff.

The UN refugee agency takes care of 252,000 refugees from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region in Eastern Chad. They live in 12 camps along the remote Chad-Sudan border.

Fighting between Chadian troops and anti-government forces took place in the Koukou Angarana area earlier this week, where some 22,000 refugees from Darfur are staying in Goz Amer camp. And this, say aid agencies, has heightened their concern.

World Food Program Spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, says her agency is providing food aid to the refugees in 11 of the 12 camps. But, she says her agency had to suspend its general food distribution to the refugees in Goz Amer camp because of the volatile security situation.

"The suspension happened on the fifth of May," she said. "And, just to give you some background, in late April, a 45-day general food ration was distributed also to internally displaced people in Goz Beida and Koukou areas. In addition, on the fifth of May the UN humanitarian air service, which [was] operated by the World Food Program did suspend service until further notice."

On Wednesday, the UN refugee agency relocated 18 staff members from Koukou to Goz Beida, about 50 kilometers away because of, what it calls, the confusing security situation.

UNHCR Spokesman, Ron Redmond, says two staff members remained behind in Koukou to monitor the situation and make sure basic activities continue there.

"We can only sustain these limited activities for so long, however," said Redmond. "So, we are hoping that the situation can normalize fairly quickly and we get access back to Koukou. In the meantime, we just have to watch very closely the security situation. As you know, this sort of thing has been happening every year for the past few years with these rebel movements in Eastern Chad."

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur, the UNHCR is providing assistance to 166,000 internally displaced Chadians in the east. It also is caring for 70,600 refugees from the Central African Republic in six sites in southern Chad.