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CAR: Darfur refugees reach Sam Ouandja

BANGUI, 31 May 2007 (IRIN) - The arrival of 1,500 Sudanese refugees in the Sam Ouandja region of northeastern Central African Republic (CAR) could mean more war-displaced people will undertake the 10-day journey in search of safety from Darfur, local sources said.

Sudanese government forces backed by armed militias attacked Daffaq region, near the Sudan-CAR border, between 12 and 18 May, triggering the forced displacement of civilians towards Southern Sudan and various locations in northeastern CAR, including Am-Dafock and Sam Ouandja.

According to local sources, many more are making their way to Sam Ouandja to join those so far registered by the local CAR authorities. The refugees belong to the Masalit, Fur, Dojou, Tama and Kara groups.

An assessment mission by United Nations agencies in CAR on 28 May found that the new arrivals were living in difficult conditions. The visit also put a stop to speculation about thousands of armed men entering CAR to destabilise the regime.

Jean-Charles Dei, head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in CAR, said his organisation was ready to provide food assistance to the arrivals for a month, and would also provide logistics for the operation.

At a meeting of UN agencies on 29 May, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offered to assist the refugees with non-food items such as plastic sheets and jerry cans, while the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) would supply water sanitation equipment.

Most refugees were women and children and appeared to be living solely on a diet of mangoes, WFP said. In view of this, it would provide emergency food aid to prevent malnutrition. “Considering that the majority of the refugees appear to be women and children, resorting to mangoes as unique available food, WFP will provide emergency food assistance to prevent them from suffering malnutrition,” the agency said.

A more in-depth evaluation of the situation in Sam Ouandja would be carried out by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others. They will help plan additional humanitarian interventions in the areas of protection, security, food, shelter, health, water and sanitation.

“Beyond the need for humanitarian assistance, the UN remains highly concerned about the protection of civilians and calls on the national authorities to continue to facilitate humanitarian access to displaced populations in need,” said Jean-Sebastien Munié of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“We did not find evidence of the presence of armed elements in the group, and the refugees assured the mission that everyone orginated from Daffaq in Sudan,” said Bruno Geddo, a UNHCR representative.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the civilian and humanitarian character of the operation,” he added.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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