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Violence in Sudan’s Darfur State Sends Thousands Fleeing to Chad


West Darfur, Sudan map

The United Nations refugee agency reports more than 11,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad this month to escape violent, inter-communal violence in West Darfur State.

The situation in West Darfur has continued to worsen since a dispute between Arab and African ethnic groups ignited violent clashes in El Geneina in late December.

The U.N. refugee agency reports that last week alone, 4,000 people fled to neighboring Chad in search of safety.

The agency says most of the refugees are among some 60,000 people who have been internally displaced during previous fighting in Darfur. UNHCR officials say they expect as many as 30,000 Sudanese could cross the border into Chad in the coming weeks as tensions increase.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says new arrivals give accounts of widespread destruction and of being forced to flee after their villages, houses and properties were attacked, with many homes burnt to the ground.

While they are safe, he says conditions in Chad are dire.

“Most are staying in the open or under makeshift shelters, with little protection from the elements," said Baloch. "Food and water are urgently needed, while health conditions are a concern to humanitarians.”

Baloch says his agency and others as well as the Chadian government are providing lifesaving aid and are assisting refugees needing special care, including unaccompanied children.

But the UNHCR spokesman says the government and humanitarian agencies are limited in what they can do, and says international support is needed.

Baloch says the refugees currently are scattered in several villages along a span of nearly 100 kilometers close to the Chad-Sudan border. He says the UNHCR and government currently are looking for a new site, further away from the dangerous border area, where the refugees can be relocated.

Meanwhile, in West Darfur inside Sudan, he says aid agencies are rushing relief items such as blankets, sleeping mats and jerry cans to help those who have been displaced by the clashes.