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Darfur: Kiwi sees increasing military activity

21 September 2006

Kiwi aid worker near Darfur witnesses increasing military activity as United Nations warns of escalating militia violence

A Kiwi aid worker with ChildFund in the African nation of Chad (neighbouring Darfur in Sudan) is witnessing increased military presence as the United Nations warns of impending “regional disaster.”

The latest update from the ChildFund office in Abeche, near the border with Sudan, is that there are now armed Chadian military men camped outside the ChildFund compound and military vehicles, including a tank and a heavily armed pick up truck, nearby.

Kiwi aid worker Maureen Duffy, from Levin, is currently completing a six month contract in Chad managing logistics. Her role involves travelling between the ChildFund base in the Chadian capital to the agency’s compounds in Abeche (Guereda and Iriba) on a regular basis, but as the military temperature rises concerns are increasing for the safety of aid workers there.

Maureen says, “The security situation has definitely become less stable of late and it’s no longer safe for our staff in Abeche to be on their own at the compound during the day. We also ensure no one remains there past 5pm in the evening.

Maureen says there is increasing concern for the safety of international workers, refugees and the ordinary citizens who live there. “More and more people have easy access to weapons and the general militarisation of the whole region is scary.”

ChildFund New Zealand National Director Paul Brown says, “Staff are feeling nervous and several aid agencies are considering pulling out of the area, which could leave just ChildFund and two other aid agencies in Guereda to cope with an expected influx of new refugees across the border from Sudan if violence continues to escalate. The UN has already asked what ChildFund could contribute to help cope, and we have undertaken to continue to provide child protection services, including child centred spaces and assistance in identifying and protecting vulnerable children such as orphans.”

The top United Nations aid official in Chad recently warned the international community of a regional humanitarian disaster. Kingsley Amaning, the UN Humanitarian Coodinator for Chad advised that unless the governments in Sudan and Chad worked together “a man-made catastrophe of unprecedented scale” threatens the region.

The 12 international refugee camps in Chad already accommodate around a quarter of a million Sudanese refugees in difficult conditions due to inhospitable terrain, overcrowding and poor security. ChildFund has programmes in a number of the camps where aid workers like Maureen work to protect and support children and families caught up in this unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Kiwis who want to make a real difference to the lives of children in need by supporting ChildFund’s work in Chad are invited to make a donation by calling 0800 223 111 or visiting www.childfund.org.nz to donate on line.

ENDS

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