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Thousands of CAR Refugees on 'Starvation Diet' in Chad


FILE - Refugees from the Central African Republic are seen at Zafaye camp, some 15 kilometers (10 miles) outside N'Djamena, Chad, March 11, 2015.

The U.N. refugee agency reports thousands of Central African refugees who fled to southern Chad late last year to escape escalating violence are short of food, shelter, medical care and other essential relief.

UNHCR reports fighting between armed groups in northwest Central African Republic last December displaced some 65,000 people and prompted more than 22,000 others to flee to Chad in search of refuge.

UNHCR finds the big refugee influx is adding an enormous burden on an area already hosting nearly 90,000 refugees and Chadian returnees from the CAR. Southern Chad is considered one of Chad’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says food shortages and rising prices are putting the lives of the refugees and host communities at risk.

“Since last December, more than 15 Central African refugees have been killed on both sides of the border and at least 67 have been subjected to sexual and gender-based violence while trying to go back to CAR to gather food and complement their scarce resources in exile,” he said.

UNHCR and partners have been providing protection, health care, water and sanitation, shelter, food and other basic relief to newly arriving refugees. But Baloch tells VOA this is no longer possible because the money has run out.

“Our worry is the funding. With no resources in our hands, it is really difficult to support refugees where humanitarian needs are so immense ... many refugees are living among the local villages. Many of the host communities are hosting them, but resources are needed to support both refugees, as well as the host communities,” he said.

Baloch says UNHCR has received only two percent of the $149 million it urgently needs for this year’s operation in Chad. He says severe flooding has badly affected this season’s harvest and food reserves are nearly exhausted.

As a consequence, he says many refugees and local residents are eating leaves and wild fruit, which often are toxic.

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