The U.N. refugee agency says it must urgently relocate about 10,000 refugees in Chad before the rainy season begins.
The refugees fled unrest in the Central African Republic over a three-week period in early June. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says they have been living in difficult conditions around 17 villages in southern Chad's Gore area.
With the onset of the rainy season, UNHCR Spokesman Ron Redmond, said it is absolutely urgent that the 10,000 refugees be moved to a single location, to ease distribution of humanitarian assistance. He said flooding already is beginning to make it difficult to move around in the region. "Already, some of the roads have turned into rivers. We have photographs, for example, of people trying to reach our stockpiles to get assistance. They are in water up to their waists and chests, just going down roads and crossing rain swollen rivers. So, it is already starting, and it will not be possible to reach all 17 villages, once the rainy season really starts," he said.
The UNHCR says it is trying to persuade the Chadian authorities to let aid workers move the refugees to a camp near Gore, which already houses 13,000 refugees, also from the Central African Republic.
Mr. Redmond said the newly arrived refugees are staying in makeshift sites in extremely difficult conditions. He says the aid group, Doctors Without Borders, reports there are serious concerns about a measles outbreak, and that malaria is widespread. "Out of 20 blood tests administered on Wednesday to a group of refugees in one of the villages, 19 proved positive for malaria. There are also fears of a possible cholera outbreak. This is because of worries about inadequate sanitation and water. Malnourishment is starting to have fatal consequences. A child diagnosed with kwashiorkor some days ago died Wednesday in Amboko hospital," he said.
Chad is hosting an estimated 30,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. The majority of them arrived in 2003 after a military coup.
Mr. Redmond says his agency has distributed blankets and plastic sheets to the refugees stuck along the border. More staff and supplies are on the way.