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Chad: UN seeks to balance refugees with security

Chad: UN seeks to balance needs of refugees with those for security after clashes

The United Nations refugee agency, which last week flew some of its staff out of Chad during clashes between Government and rebel forces, has no immediate plans for any further evacuation as continues its efforts to help some 200,000 Sudanese who have fled vicious fighting in their own country.

“We are now trying to strike the right balance between continuing essential services to refugees in the camps, who feel reassured by our presence, as well as security precautions for our staff,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today.

In a telephone conversation on Sunday night Chadian President Idriss Deby, who last week threatened to expel the Sudanese following the clashes, assured High Commissioner António Guterres he not forcibly return the Sudanese and would abide by international principles.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which had been forced to halt its distribution of supplies in the camps because of insecurity, said a calm situation over the weekend had allowed it to resume operations. When the hostilities broke out, WFP had completed its distribution to only four camps.

While the agency has resumed work in the others it is proceeding at a much slower pace since WFP had relocated a large number of its staff, spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told the Geneva briefing. The agency still has a dozen international staff on the ground.

Stressing the need for security to improve, Ms. Berthiaume said WFP hoped to preposition as many supplies as possible before the rainy season began and the roads became impassable. Some 45,000 Chadians had fled their homes owing to insecurity since December.

The recent security concerns prompted UNHCR and its partners as well as other UN organizations to relocate non-essential staff from Chad, and so far some 35 UNHCR staff, out of a total of 280 national and international personnel in the country, have been flown to Yaoundé, Cameroon on two UN flights.

“This is an ongoing exercise, but there are no immediate plans for any further evacuation flights,” Ms. Pagonis said of the efforts to balance the needs of the refugees with those for staff security.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which had been forced to halt its distribution of supplies in the camps because of insecurity, said a calm situation over the weekend had allowed it to resume operations. When the hostilities broke out, WFP had completed its distribution to only four camps.

While the agency has resumed work in the others it is proceeding at a much slower pace since WFP had relocated a large number of its staff, spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told the Geneva briefing. The agency still has a dozen international staff on the ground.

Stressing the need for security to improve, Ms. Berthiaume said WFP hoped to preposition as many supplies as possible before the rainy season began and the roads became impassable. Some 45,000 Chadians had fled their homes owing to insecurity since December.

In a related development, WFP today welcomed its first ever contribution from the Government of the Libya, a $4.5 million donation to feed 2.7 million people in the Darfur region of western Sudan and 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.

“We are extremely grateful for Libya’s generous support to WFP’s emergency operations for the people of Darfur and refugees in Chad. The contribution comes at a time when there is donor fatigue in many parts of the world and our operations face severe funding shortages,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director for Sudan Bradley Guerrant.

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