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Top UN Refugee Official Wraps Up Darfur Visit

Top UN Refugee Official Wraps Up Darfur Visit Pledging Aid For Conflict’s Victims

New York, Apr 25 2005

United Nations Acting High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Wendy Chamberlin has wrapped up a visit to the victims of the fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region with a pledge to do all in her agency’s power to help those who have fled the brutal conflict when they decide it is safe enough to return home.

“We, too, look forward to the day you can return to Darfur,” she told some of the 21,000 refugees at Touloum camp in eastern Chad, a mere fraction of 200,000 Sudanese who have fled across the border since rebels took up arms, partly in protest at the distribution of economic resources two years ago.

The conflict has since been compounded by armed militia attacks on villages which have also uprooted more than 1.8 million people internally in Darfur itself, some of whom Ms. Chamberlin visited before coming to Chad.

“I wanted to see with my own eyes and hear the stories directly from the refugees,” Ms. Chamberlin said as she ended her five-day visit to the region on Friday.

Women and children represent at least 80 per cent of the refugee population in the camps in eastern Chad. The men sometimes go back to the border area in order to take care of the cattle or to check on their land and remaining properties in Darfur.

Most of the refugees’ requests focused on improving their daily lives, especially for their children. “We want more food, water, firewood and also education for our children, high schools even,” refugee leaders told the Acting High Commissioner.

Ms. Chamberlin compared what she heard in Touloum with the testimonies she had heard from the displaced people in Darfur. “Your concerns are the same as people who stayed in Darfur – food, water, firewood and education,” she said. “In Darfur the security is also a major concern.”

On a visit to desperate widows and small children living under trees in a dry river bed and to families huddled in miserable tiny twig shelters in squalid villages in Darfur, she called on the international community to contribute more money for humanitarian relief.

ENDS

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