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Kiwi relief worker evacuated from Chad

15 December 2006

Kiwi relief worker evacuated from Chad urges New Zealanders to help the child victims of Darfur

A Kiwi relief worker evacuated this week from the African nation of Chad is appealing to New Zealanders to urgently help thousands of children made refugees by the continuing violence in Darfur.

Levin woman Maureen Duffy, Logistics Manager for ChildFund's operation in Chad, arrived safely back in New Zealand on Monday after escalating violence between Chadian forces and armed rebels prompted the United Nations to enforce a mandatory and immediate evacuation of all international aid and emergency relief workers.

Maureen says, "The situation in Chad has deteriorated dramatically over recent weeks, making it increasingly difficult to deliver much needed aid and support to child refugees and their families who so desperately need our help."

"There are thousands of children living in the camps, many of which have been made orphans or have been separated from their parents and are severely traumatised because of what they have witnessed. They've seen family members killed, bombs explode and their villages burned to the ground. To help these acutely vulnerable and traumatised children we have created Child Centred Spaces where they can come and know they're safe."

"At these Child Centred Spaces we do singing, drawing, dancing, sports and simple education, which not only provides fun and routine for the children, they more importantly help the children to normalise their situation. Children are incredibly resilient, and you would be surprised how quickly these children respond and revert to being children again. It's times like these you realise these children are not so different from our own children here in New Zealand."

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"Seeing these children laugh and play gives me hope. I was devastated that I had to leave all these children behind knowing they will have to fend for themselves until the security situation has calmed down enough for our teams to return."

On their return Maureen's team will need funds to deliver emergency aid such as food, medical care and blankets, shoes and clothing to help cope with winter temperatures as low as -18 degrees.

Maureen says, "I was one of the lucky few who were able to leave Chad. There are over 220,000 refugees struggling to live in the camps where we work, including many children, some of whom have been made orphans by the violence they've experienced. It would be great if New Zealanders could find a place in their hearts for these children this Christmas - maybe spend a little less on gifts this year and allocate some of their Christmas present budget to the ChildFund New Zealand appeal."

New Zealanders wanting to make a difference to help those affected by the violence can donate to the ChildFund New Zealand emergency appeal by phoning 0800 223 111 or online at www.childfund.org.nz .

ChildFund New Zealand is supporting its partner CCF Chad, which operates four of the largest refugee camps in Chad, near the Sudanese border with Darfur.

ENDS

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