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Sudanese Refugee Camps In Chad

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Media Brief On Oxfam Humanitarian Relief At Sudanese Refugee Camps In Chad

Scale of Disaster

Over 1.2 million are displaced within Darfur, and 200,000 have fled into Chad Over two million will need food aid in the coming months (UN estimate) Conditions in the camps are appalling – not enough food, water, shelter or medicine Malnutrition and disease are rife, and epidemics ( eg cholera) are a real possibility Death rates in some areas are already three times the rate that would qualify as a humanitarian crisis Heavy rains and continuing insecurity pose major problems for aid delivery

Humanitarian response inadequate so far The UN needs US$531m but only about half this has been raised so far Some countries (eg Japan, Spain, France) have given woefully inadequate amounts All agencies on the ground need to continue scaling up to deal with the growing need

Urgent issues in addition to aid delivery Civilians continue to be targets of violence by militias and other armed groups. Women in particular are at risk of beatings, rape and abduction. Displaced people must be able to make decisions about whether it is safe to go home free of intimidation or coercion. Yet in many areas, they are being pressured to move from the camps where they have sought refuge. The African Union force that is monitoring and reporting on violations of the ceasefire (in place for five months, but frequently violated) needs more international funding and resources to increase its capacity to stop the violence against civilians. All parties to the conflict must uphold international humanitarian law, protect the rights of civilians and provide access for independent and impartial humanitarian agencies The international community has a moral obligation to do everything possible to end this conflict and alleviate the suffering.

As long as hundreds of thousands of people are still hungry, sick and living in fear, the world is failing the people of Darfur. Chad Influxes of additional “spontaneous” refugees to Breidjing camp every day seem to be continuing. Latest estimation of new arrivals: 100-200 per day. “When you first approach it, Breidjing camp is shocking. It is designed for 20,000 people and it holds 40,000. It takes you 15-20 minutes to cross it by car,” says Andres Devanthery, Oxfam’s water engineer at Breidjing. Situation for “spontaneous” refugees in Breidjing camp (numbered at around 15,000) remains precarious, with inadequate food provision, no shelters, poor sanitation, etc. Aid agencies are trying to urgently deal with this issue though more significant steps are required.

It is urgent to have Treguine camp and the extension to Farchana camp open as soon as possible. UNHCR and Oxfam agreed to start a geophysics study for sites pre-identified in order to assess water and other resources. UNHCR also plans to identify a fifth site for contingency plans for further 50,000 refugees. The population of Amnabak camp is in very poor condition but relocation to Mader site might be postponed due to difficulties in finding water resources. Impact on local communities continues and is expected to worsen with the onset of the dry season due to the economic and environmental pressure that strains resources. At Iriba, trees are being cut and desertification has been accelerated. Cholera warning: Several cholera cases have been reported on the main road from the Chadian capital to the refugee camps. “We are afraid of a deadly outbreak of cholera in the camps. All ingredients are set up for it,” says Devanthery. Oxfam International is stepping up prevention efforts. The security situation remains generally calm although it is still fragile.

Oxfam’s response Highlights More than 250,000 people are benefiting directly from Oxfam’s emergency programmes in Darfur and Chad. The response is continuing to scale-up. Oxfam is providing clean drinking water, toilets, bathing facilities, water containers and household items, hygiene kits and public health promotion. Water supply has improved at some camps, but still struggling to find water resources at established and due-to-open camps. Continuing much needed work on the improvement of sanitation and hygienic conditions. In Chad, Oxfam is also involved in camp management and malaria control with the malaria prevention programme growing. Starting a vaccination programme for cattle of refugees at three sites and the local population of the area surrounding the sites.

Main programme lines: current figures

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene promotion: Health issues remain at the top of the agenda as the overcrowding of camps, lack of clean water and poor hygienic conditions pose the highest risk of epidemics and water-borne diseases. A Hepatitis E outbreak, caused by poor water conditions, has infected more than 1,000 people and killed 35 in the region of Goz Amer.

There is no vaccine for it and no treatment other than prevention. Oxfam International is working on: Clean water supply: 8.7 litres per person per day at Amnabak transit camp (11,500 refugees), 10 litres per person per day at Breidjing camp (in line with international guidelines for emergencies). Well diggings: at Treguine camp. Latrines construction: 330 built at Breidjing camp (further 400 planned). Training on hygiene and public health measures. Distribution of cleaning materials for latrine maintenance and personal hygiene, dustbins and development of hand washing facilities: Breidjing.

“The problem now is that water levels are decreasing in some camps, mainly Breidjing, and the main well, the one that provides the most water to refugees, has been polluted. We are planning to drill four to six new wells at a great depth, up to 100 metres,” explains Devanthery.

Malaria prevention: high risk due to rainy season. Oxfam has distributed mosquito nets (3,000 units at Amnabak, distributing 1,500 more) and has organised a spraying programme at Touloum camp. We will also support spraying at Iridimi.

Food security: There are high malnutrition rates (up to 39% among refugee population and higher among local communities) due to poor nutritional value of diets and insufficient food distribution in some cases. That is why Oxfam International has set up a new programme to vaccinate cattle brought by the refugees in order to improve food security and guarantee refugee livelihood. Some programme data: We have found more than 64,000 dead cattle since the arrival of refugees. Our goal is to vaccinate 50,000 cows, sheep, goats, camels and horses with three different vaccines. Number of vaccinations may be doubled in the coming months.

Programme duration: at least 3 months. “The first person to attend our vaccination action was an old woman, bringing fourteen goats. She had lost one of them on her way to the vaccination point because it was too weak and they needed to move the cattle to graze at far away wadis (river beds). She is now confident, however, that she will be able to make her living in better conditions, selling goats at the market when needed,” explained Oscar Samso, Oxfam International vet.

Oxfam New Zealand has raised NZ $390,000 for emergency work in Darfur, Sudan and in refugee camps in neighbouring Chad. To donate call 0800 600 700 or visit www.oxfam.org.nz

ENDS

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