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UN Refugee Chief To Visit Chad

UN Refugee Chief To Visit Chad Where Violence Threatens Vital Relief Life-Line

New York, Dec 19 2006 10:00AM

The head of the United Nations refugee agency leaves tomorrow on a two-day mission to Chad to strengthen efforts to maintain a vital lifeline for 370,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (<"http://www.unhcr.org/protect/3b84c7e23.html">IDPs) that is increasingly threatened by violence spilling over the border from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres is expected to meet with senior Chadian officials, including President Idriss Deby, to discuss the dire humanitarian situation facing some 232,000 Darfur refugees and 90,000 Chadian IDPs in remote eastern Chad, as well as 48,000 Central African Republic (CAR) refugees in the south.

“The volatile and deteriorating security situation, which has led to UNHCR working on a skeleton staff basis in six of the 12 refugee camps in the east since late November, is of critical concern to the High Commissioner,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler <" http://www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/4587c4d44.html">told a news briefing in Ge΅eva today, noting that Mr. Guterres will travel to eastern Chad to meet with Darfur refugees and Chadian IDPs.

“During his mission, he will be stressing the fragility of the vital humanitarian lifeline in eastern Chad and seeking ways to strengthen it and protect the hundreds of thousands of victims of violence in the region,” he added, calling the situation, which has forced UNHCR and other aid organizations to withdraw staff from severalᾠcamps, one of the world™s most difficult and urgent humanitarian crises.

Over the past three years, UNHCR has established a dozen remote refugee camps for hundreds of thousands of Darfurians scattered along a 600-kilometre stretch of eastern Chad near the border with Sudan. In the last 12 months, 90,000 Chadians have themselves been displaced by marauding groups of armed men on camels and horseback whose tactics mirror those of the notorious Janjaweed across the border in Darfur.

Just last Friday and Saturday, in the latest deadly episode of inter-ethnic fighting that has been increasing in intensity since November, attacks on villages in the Koukou Angarana area in south-eastern Chad close to Goz Amer refugee camp killed 30 people, including local villagers, refugees and IDPs. Another 30 people were wounded.

Government forces countered the attack in heavy fighting around the village of Habile, which is also the site of a makeshift camp for IDPs, and 22 villagers and IDPs were killed and 93 homes burned. Some 50 humanitarian workers in the area have been temporarily located until the situation calms down. More than 70 villages have been attacked, burned or emptied since early November. In late November, UNHCR lost more than $1 million in aid supplies looted from its main warehouse in Abeche following clashes there.

Ends

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