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CHAD: Oxfam and MSF suspend activities in Kerfi following attacks

DAKAR, 11 July 2008 (IRIN) - Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Oxfam and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) have suspended their activities in Kerfi, near Goz Beida in eastern Chad, following attacks on the staff and compounds of several NGOs, both agencies announced in press statements on 10 July.

During the night of 9 July six armed men shot several times and attempted without success to burn down a house where Oxfam’s staff were hiding, the organisation announced in a statement, adding that ensuing clashes between the Chadian army and the armed attackers resulted in the death of at least one man and the injuries of several others.

“We are deeply concerned by [this] attack and the implication this could have on our ability to provide critical [help]”, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam-GB’s country director, announced in the statement. The NGO provides water and sanitation to over 11,000 people in Kerfi. “Insecurity remains a constant problem in Chad and the Chad government should work to curtail the environment of impunity which permeates this region,” it continued.

MSF-Holland also announced the suspension of its activities on 10 July in the same town, following an attack against its health facility on 8 July by dozens of young men who beat up several staff members and patients.

Populations of this area of eastern Chad close to the Sudan border, have been the target of several attacks over the last months, according to UN officials. But in the case of the latest attacks, although the motives are unknown the MSF statement declared “it appears that NGOs are being intentionally targeted.”

“The area] is very poor, there is not enough food, [whereas] NGOs have money and cars,” Karline Kleijer, head of MSF-Holland mission in Chad, told IRIN. “But this time, there is nothing to do with that. To attack a health facility is quite extreme. Staff and patients have been beaten up; this has nothing to do with money”.

NGOs are working to help Sudanese refugees, internally displaced people and local populations in the region.

Oxfam and MSF staff have been temporarily evacuated and relocated to Goz Beida, an hour away from Kerfi, from where many aid agencies operate. Some of MSF’s patients have also been transferred to Goz Beida, but the medical organisation expressed concern for the 3,000 patients it has been treating each month, and the 200 children who receive its nutritional support.

“I don’t see us coming back within the next few weeks,” Kleijer said. “If we are targeted, it will be difficult to justify. They have to find a way to control [this violence].”

More than 10,000 displaced people live and around the town of Kerfi, in addition to the existing 8,000 inhabitants. Overall, about 250,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur and over 100,000 displaced Chadians are currently living in eastern Chad.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
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.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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