A wave of violence has forced the temporary evacuation of over 400 humanitarian staff in eastern Chad in the past two weeks, severely interrupting the provision of humanitarian aid, says international agency Oxfam. The serious deterioration of security in the region bordering Darfur threatens to cause a major health and food crisis for hundreds of thousands of people.
In the past three weeks, rebel groups and government forces have been fighting in and around several cities in eastern Chad, including some of the most important humanitarian bases, such as Abeche, Goz Beida, Guereda and Biltine. Fighting has interrupted humanitarian activities and aid supply chains. The six refugee camps north of Abeche, sheltering 110,000 men, women and children from Darfur, have been worst affected. Increased insecurity has also led to the UN stopping food aid to 56,000 Chadians who recently fled their villages as a result of interethnic violence.
Around 25 humanitarian staff have suffered serious attacks and three aid agencies warehouses have been looted in Abeche and Goz Beida in recent weeks. Tonnes of basic aid, including food, tents, kitchen sets and medical supplies, have been lost. More than 50 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked this year alone.
As a result, humanitarian agencies have reduced their programmes in eastern Chad to strictly life-saving activities, such as the provision of health care, drinking water and food aid.
Oxfam has temporarily evacuated 16 of their 24 international aid workers from eastern Chad, with some now in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, and others outside the country. The minimum staff required to maintain water supply for 32,000 refugees in two camps in Djabal and Goz Amer, and for some 20,000 Chadians who have fled recent violence in the area remain in eastern Chad.
“Thousands of displaced people in need risk being cut off from life-saving aid as the security situation forces us to evacuate staff,” says Brendan Ross, Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Coordinator. “Though some aid is continuing to reach people, unless we can get back in soon, the situation will start to deteriorate rapidly.”
Oxfam is calling for all parties in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, requiring safety for civilians and access to assistance from impartial humanitarian agencies. Oxfam is also asking the United Nations to maintain essential humanitarian coordination functions in eastern Chad. A total withdrawal by UN agencies and international NGOs would give free reign to unrest and uncontrolled violence in the region.
Humanitarian agencies attend to the needs of 220,000 refugees from Darfur and many of the 90,000 Chadians that fled violence in their villages in the past few months.
The recent upsurge in interethnic clashes in October and November is generating an increasingly serious humanitarian crisis as civilians are targeted in this violence. In the past two months some 60 villages have been attacked by armed men, causing the death of hundreds of civilians and the displacement of more than 25,000 people who have sought assistance and protection around the refugee camps.
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