A wave of violence has forced the temporary evacuation of over 400 humanitarian staff in eastern Chad, severely interrupting the provision of humanitarian aid, said international agency Oxfam today. Fighting in areas bordering Sudan’s conflictive Darfur region threatens a major crisis for hundreds of thousands of people.
Three weeks of combat between rebel groups and government forces in and around several cities, including the important aid centres Abeche, Goz Beida, Guereda and Biltine, has interrupted humanitarian activities and aid supply chains. Most affected are six refugee camps north of Abeche, sheltering 110,000 men, women and children from Darfur. Insecurity has also led the UN to stop food aid to 56,000 Chadians who recently fled their villages as a result of inter-ethnic violence.
Some 25 aid workers have suffered serious attacks and three aid warehouses were looted in Abeche and Goz Beida in recent weeks. Tons of food, tents, kitchen sets and medical supplies were lost. More than 50 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked this year alone. Humanitarian agencies have had to reduce activities in eastern Chad to essential life-saving health care, drinking water and food aid.
Oxfam has temporarily evacuated 16 of 24 international aid workers, with some now in the Chadian capital, N’djamena, and others outside the country. The minimum staff remain in place to maintain water supply for 32,000 refugees in two camps in Djabal and Goz Amer, plus some 20,000 Chadians who have fled recent violence.
‘Thousands of displaced people in need risk being cut off from life-saving aid as the security situation forces us to evacuate staff, said Oxfam’s Country Programme Manager in Chad. ‘Though some aid is continuing to reach people, unless we can get back in soon, the situation will deteriorate rapidly.”
Oxfam is calling on all parties in the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law, which requires them to respect civilians’ safety and access to assistance from impartial humanitarian agencies. Oxfam is also asking the United Nations to maintain essential coordination functions in eastern Chad. A total withdrawal by UN agencies and international NGOs could give free reign to uncontrolled violence in the region.
Notes to Editors:
Humanitarian agencies are attending to 220,000 refugees from Darfur and many of the 90,000 Chadians forced to flee their homes.
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 thousands who have sought assistance and protection near the refugee camps.