Displaced people in Eastern Chad receive bags of seeds just before the rainy season, 13 Nov 2009
Displaced people in Eastern Chad receive bags of seeds just before the rainy season, 13 Nov 2009

The United Nations reports six aid agencies in eastern Chad have temporarily suspended their humanitarian activities following some serious security incidents in the past couple of weeks.  

The United Nations warns serious acts of banditry in eastern Chad over the last two weeks is jeopardizing humanitarian operations in the region.  Two serious security incidents have cast doubt over the viability of these operations.  

In one case, an international staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross was kidnapped.  And, in the other case, a national staff member working for the non-governmental organization Solidarite was killed.

Aid Agencies Suspend Eastern Chad Operations
Aid Agencies Suspend Eastern Chad Operations

These acts occurred in Ade and Kawa areas located near the border with Sudan.  UN Humanitarian spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says these increasingly dangerous incidents of banditry appear to be a new trend.

The latest attacks, she says, has prompted five private agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to temporarily suspend their activities in the east.

"The number of security incidents has doubled since 2008.  It is true.  But, this trend must be tackled, I think.  Both the government and UN aid agencies and MINURCAT [UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad] are taking all the measures now," she explained.  "Now the humanitarian community has contingency plans in order to ensure the continuity of assistance in vital sectors-even if more NGO's withdraw.  So far, it is a temporary withdrawal.  It is not suspension of operations.  It is temporary," she said.

Byrs says about 37,000 people will be affected by these temporary suspensions.  The aid agencies provide food, water and sanitation, protection and health.  

Byrs says the agencies plan to resume their operations as soon as security permits.  In light of the escalation of incidents of banditry, she says security strategies have to be rethought and tightened.

UN refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says the United Nations is very strict about applying its security measures.

"UNHCRC as other UN agencies, we are obliged to travel with an armed escort.  And, that escort is either provided by the government or by the UN troops.  For the NGO community, there are no obligations and they are encouraged to take the armed escort when traveling in the region, but, there is nothing obliging them to do so," he said.  

About 70 humanitarian organizations work in eastern Chad.  They provide vital assistance to more than one-quarter of a million Sudanese refugees who have fled the conflict in Darfur.  

They also assist nearly 170,000 internally displaced people and around 700,000 people in host villages affected by the crisis.