7 February 2008

Chad: UN Voices Concern Over Fate of Nearly 500,000 People in Eas

Although eastern Chad is currently calm, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today expressed its concern over the fate of up to 500,000 vulnerable people - mostly Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) - in the region.

"I am extremely concerned about the impact of the recent violence on our ability to deliver life-saving assistance to almost a half million people, most of whom are heavily reliant on humanitarian aid for their survival," said John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

There are more than 240,000 Sudanese refugees and over 180,000 IDPs residing in eastern Chad, with the recent fighting - which affected the region to a limited extent - possibly uprooting even more people.

Non-essential UN staff were evacuated from eastern Chad last week, and in addition, many aid workers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also left the region.

The head of OCHA's Chad office noted that in the country's east, very few refugees and IDPs are self-sufficient, and that food, medicine and water will only last between two to four weeks in most locations.

"We must ensure that before that time, we are able to provide at least minimal assistance, which will enable people to survive," said Eliane Duthoit, who is part of the UN 'skeleton team' which stayed in N'Djamena.

She hoped that when normality is restored, humanitarian workers will resume their work.

The fighting affecting the capital, N'Djamena, and other parts of the country has also driven at least 30,000 Chadians to neighbouring Cameroon.

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