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Kiwi worker joins team to help Darfur refugees

10 July 2006

Kiwi relief worker joins ChildFund team to help Darfur refugees

A Kiwi relief worker from Levin is packing her bags as she prepares to join the ChildFund emergency team in Chad, Africa.

Maureen Duffy will spend the next six months managing the logistics, operations and supply systems in Chad for international development agency ChildFund. She will be located at the ChildFund base in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena, and making regular visits to refugee camps near Abeche on the Sudanese border, particularly the four large camps where ChildFund is active.

ChildFund has been involved in Chad since 2003 when ethnic violence against Sudanese civilians around Darfur resulted in a flood of refugees across the border into Chad. There are now more than 220,000 Sudanese refugees, largely women and children, living in tough conditions with scarce food and water supplies.

Maureen is no stranger to operating in conditions of poverty and civil disorder. She left a 13 year army career to work as civilian in the war zones of Kosovo, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Iraq. It’s in these tough conditions that Maureen honed her skills in supply and logistics.

Chad will still present a range of new challenges for Maureen, who describes herself as excited about the opportunity but still wary of the primitive working conditions. “I think I will be shocked when I witness the extreme poverty first hand, particularly the way it affects the children.”

Language and weather will also be a challenge. Chadians speak French and Arabic, both of which will be a test for this English speaking Kiwi from Levin. And Africa is entering the rainy season which Maureen says brings mud, flooding and vermin.

“There are no roads in Chad, so wet weather will make accessing the satellite refugee camps even more difficult. I am not sure what communication systems they have in place. Establishing reliable communications systems will be one of my first jobs.”

If Maureen is expecting tough living conditions, she knows that the conditions for the refugees are even tougher. There is constant tension over scarce resources such as land, firewood and animals and young children, particularly girls, are at risk of physical abuse and rape when they have to leave the camps to collect firewood. Early marriage and polygamy are part of Darfurian culture, so there are also increased health risks for girls.

ChildFund is actively working to improve the environment for refugee and Chadian children and adolescents in the four camps of Touloum, Iridimi, Mile and Kunoungu, in the Eastern Chad region. One of the key mechanisms used is the establishment of ‘Child Centred Spaces.’ This approach is one of ChildFund’s key strengths. It sees the provision of safe havens for children to play, learn, read and recover. ChildFund Child Centred Spaces have recently been used very successfully as part of the emergency relief response in East Timor and Indonesia.

Maureen says that more donations are needed to support ChildFund’s work in Chad. “Kiwis wanting to make a real difference to the lives of children in need can do so by supporting the work of ChildFund in this area.”

Donations can be made by calling 0800 223 111 or by visiting www.childfund.org.nz


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