Tissi — Following the displacement of tens of thousands of people from Sudan to Chad, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is "in a race against time" to deliver aid to them before the rainy seasons begins.
In a press briefing on Friday, UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said the agency "is requisitioning aid for tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in eastern Chad amid fears that heavy rains will cut off access to the group".
This year more than 50,000 people, both Sudanese and Chadians who were living in Darfur, fled violent hostilities to Tissi, just across the border. Roads to the area become impassable during the rainy season lasting from May to November and the first rains have already fallen. The region has little infrastructure and new arrivals place a strain on the local communities.
UNHCR says it has procured enough aid to cover the needs of 3,000 families and additional supplies are underway to cover the needs of another 4,000. The refugees are mainly women and children and they urgently need shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance, the spokesman said. "They say that they fled because people were killed during the violence and that many houses were torched by armed men."
Earlier this month Médecins Sans Frontières drew international attention to the problem: "Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed before the looming rainy season cuts off road access to many areas ... time is running out".
The UN Agency says that on average, 300 refugees a day continue to cross into Tissi as communal tensions persist in Darfur. The new arrivals say that many more are on their way to Chad but that armed groups are preventing them from crossing the border.
Before the latest influx, there were some 300,000 Darfur refugees in Chad.