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Chad: In Race Against Rain

Chad: In Race Against Rain UN Hopes To Start Relocating 10,000 Refugees Tomorrow

New York, Jul 12 2005

In a race against time, with rains setting in and flooding hindering movement in southern Chad, the United Nations refugee agency hopes to start as early as tomorrow the weeks-long relocation of 10,000 needy refugees from the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) who are threatened with being cut off from all aid.

"With the onset of the rainy season, it is essential that we get them moved quickly to a single site at the existing camp of Amboko, where we can more easily provide humanitarian assistance," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

The refugees arrived in June, fleeing unrest in northern CAR, where Mr. Redmond said the level of insecurity reportedly remains considerable, with both banditry and rebel activity reported. They have been living in makeshift settlements around 17 villages in the remote areas in southern Chad.

UNHCR staff have been redeployed to the area from its offices in Abeche, Damanadji and N'djamena, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Federation of the Red Cross and various partner non-government organizations such as CARE, Oxfam, Chadian Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, are all working hard on this, Mr. Redmond said.

The Government of Chad has made additional land available to UNHCR for a temporary transit centre at Amboko camp, near Gore an airstrip, unused for more than 20 years, is being urgently rehabilitated. It is hoped that flights may be possible within a couple of weeks, which would significantly enhance the operation.

On Friday UNHCR said relocation might even start on Monday, but Mr. Redmond said today: "The relocation operation could start as early as tomorrow (Wednesday) and is a race against time as the rains have already set in."

Amboko camp already has 13,000 CAR refugees and can host up to 27,000 people. There are already 30,000 CAR refugees in southern Chad. The majority of them arrived in 2003 after a military coup. Chad is also hosting more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan who are currently housed in 12 camps in the eastern part of the country.

ENDS

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