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Chad - UN Refugee Agency Moves Staff

Turmoil In Chad Leads UN Refugee Agency To Temporarily Move Some Staff

New York, Nov 28 2006 10:00PM

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that it is temporarily relocating some of its staff from eastern Chad amid mounting concern at the recent turmoil in the area.

The situation inside the Chadian town of Abeche was calm this morning, UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva, days after it was briefly occupied by rebel forces and then re-taken by Government troops.

Mobs of local residents looted the warehouses in Abeche belonging to UNHCR and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), pillaging nearly 500 tons of food and other supplies between them.

Ms. Pagonis said an inventory is being carried out to determine how much was lost, but an early estimate indicates that the UNHCR warehouse contained $1.3 million of relief items. Even the wheels of humanitarian vehicles parked outside were removed, along with their batteries.

An appeal by Chadian authorities for looters to leave stolen items in the streets to be collected later by aid agencies and the army has been unsuccessful so far, with only a small number of items returned.

Ms. Pagonis also said that the security situation outside Abeche is uncertain, with reports that both the Chadian military and rebel groups might be present. This area is home to more than 300,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The refugee agency is now temporarily relocating some of its international staff from eastern Chad to the capital, N’Djamena. Relatives of staff working in N’Djamena have already been moved to Yaoundé, the capital of neighbouring Cameroon.

Ms. Pagonis said that some international specialists, especially in the fields of logistics and supply, are being brought into eastern Chad at the same time because of the looting of the warehouses.

“We need to quickly get back up to adequate levels so there will be no break in the aid pipeline,” she said.

Ends

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