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UN Rebuilding Refugee Camps In Nepal And Chad

UN rebuilding refugee camps in Nepal and Chad devastated by fires

22 April 2008 - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is rebuilding camps in Nepal and Chad after devastating fires left more than 10,000 refugees homeless in the two countries.

Last month, a blaze sparked by an oil lamp spread through an area packed with huts - some of which had been built into walkways to accommodate the largely-growing population - in the Goldhap camp in eastern Nepal, leaving 8,000 Bhutanese refugees without homes. No one was killed in the fire, which destroyed nearly 95 per cent of the settlement.

The newly-reconstructed camp - rebuilding is expected to be completed in July, ahead of the July monsoon rains - will have fire-retardant thatched roofs and wider spacing between huts to minimize fire hazards, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva today.

While UNHCR and its partners have so far received $177,000 to reconstruct the settlement, it still requires more than $400,000 to complete the task.

For the past two months, refugees have been living in temporary shelters and with host families, with the most vulnerable of them sheltering in the camp school which survived the blaze.

The Nepalese Government, UNHCR and other organizations have provided food, tarpaulins, plastic mats, jerry cans, mosquito nets and emergency cash grants to those made homeless by the fire.

To avert the spread of diseases, UNHCR has provided health workers, installed water tanks and latrines and dug waste disposal pits, among other efforts.

"Life is slowly returning to normal for Goldhap's refugees," Mr. Redmond observed.

UNHCR has distributed copies of school notes for students who had lost them in the fire, while those sitting annual exams were hosted in other camps.

Over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven settlements in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is also assisting with reconstructing the Goz Amer refugee camp in Chad, where a fire on 11 April left 2,100 Sudanese refugees from the war-torn Darfur region homeless.

The blaze was started by an untended cooking fire, destroying 270 family huts, and the agency is encouraging refugees to rebuild their homes with bricks instead of straw, stick and mud, which are popular materials in the region.

Those affected by the fire are currently being housed in UNHCR family tents.

"The main challenge to brick construction is the severe lack of water in eastern Chad," Mr. Redmond pointed out, given that refugees must use what little water is available as potable water and thus are disincline to waste it.

"Therefore, we have urged them to only use water from a nearby wadi [seasonal stream] for brick construction, while water provided in the camp by us should be used for drinking and cooking purposes."

This week, refugees in Djabal camp held a voluntary food collection for those displaced by the fire in the Goz Amer settlement, 45 kilometres away, in a show of solidarity.

ENDS

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