UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-CHAD: Budget shortfalls loom as more refugees flee into Chad
DAKAR, 30 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - The UN refugee agency in Chad says new waves of refugees from the Central African Republic are putting a strain on funds already stretched thin in a country where the UN is assisting almost a quarter of a million refugees.
UNHCR says at least 1,000 Central Africans have fled to Chad in recent weeks, fleeing village raids by armed men in northern Central African Republic (CAR) - a region long plagued by violence which the UN has said could trigger a major humanitarian crisis if left unchecked.
Refugees described scenes of “near total anarchy,” according to UNHCR, with summary executions, house burnings and violent village raids carried out by rebel factions and armed gangs. Some refugees said armed bandits were kidnapping children and demanding ransom.
The new wave brings to about 13,000 the number of Central Africans who have fled to Chad since June 2005. They joined some 30,000 refugees living in camps in southern Chad since fleeing fighting in CAR in 2003.
“Any further influx from CAR could severely stretch UNHCR’s capacity to provide protection and basic assistance to refugees in the south,” the agency said in a statement at the weekend.
UNHCR provides shelter, sanitation facilities, water, blankets, cooking utensils and other basic living supplies to refugees housed at Yaroungou, Amboko and Gondje camps in southern Chad. The agency opened the Gondje camp last month to absorb new influxes.
UNHCR has about US $3.1 million for the operation for 2006 - about half of what is needed, according to an agency official in N'djamena.
The UN World Food Programme is also facing a resource crunch.
“This is putting significant additional stress on the meagre resources WFP has available for this operation,” WFP's Chad representative Stefano Porretti told IRIN from N’djamena.
Meanwhile men, women and children continue to flee CAR for Chad.
“Refugees are still arriving in groups, about 20 people a day,” George Menze, head of the UNHCR office in Gore, southern Chad, said in the statement.
The trouble in CAR, which is particularly severe in the north, is thought by aid workers and UN officials to be the acts of common criminals as well as remnants of insurgent groups from recurring conflicts in the region.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in CAR last week warned of “a real catastrophe” looming in the area, where thousands of people have recently been displaced by violence and where there is little humanitarian intervention.
Parts of northern CAR have no permanent UN or international NGO presence because of lack of security.
The governments of CAR, Chad and neighbouring Cameroon earlier this year began joint operations - backed by troops of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa - to secure the region and control the proliferation of small arms. The countries have appealed to the international community for assistance in stabilising the tri-border area.
UNHCR Chad representative Ana Liria-Franch said in a statement: “There is a lot of suffering today in northern CAR. The international community needs to pay much more attention to this region, and find out what’s really happening there so further displacement toward Chad can be prevented.”
UN humanitarian agencies are also assisting some 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.
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