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Emergency Airlifts Begin For Eastern Chad - 2004-02-17

The UN refugee agency has launched an emergency airlift this week in eastern Chad, bringing supplies to about 110-thousand Sudanese refugees. At the same time, the UNHCR continues to move the refugees away from the border to safer locations farther inland. The refugees have fled the Darfur region of Sudan where fighting involving rebels, militias and governments troops has destroyed many towns and villages.

Jennifer Clark is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the emergency airlifts. She says, “We have a series of airlifts going into eastern Chad this week. We had actually the first plane over the weekend that brought some plastic sheeting for large warehouse type tents and some four-wheel drive vehicles from our stockpiles in Copenhagen. That arrived this weekend in eastern Chad. And starting today we have a series of flights from our stockpiles in Tanzania that are going to bring in more aid items, such as blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans and plastic sheeting for up to 110,000 Sudanese refugees that are currently in the border area of eastern Chad.”

Ms. Clark says the UNHCR is in “a race against time.” The area where the refugees have gathered is very arid at this time of year. Water is in short supply and it’s been difficult finding areas for camps with adequate water supplies. The rainy season is due in May, but at that time the sandy roads could become impassable for truck convoys.

Ms. Clark says, “The relocation (of refugees) is progressing. We have about 4,000 people who have been moved so far to two different sites that have already been opened. One is called Farchana, the other is called Touloum.” The refugees are being moved on a daily basis by truck convoys carrying several hundred people at a time.

Click above links to listen to interview with UNHCR spokesperson.