Chad welcomes nearly 2000 refugees fleeing West Darfur State
CAPE TOWN - Nearly 2 000 refugees have fled to Chad following recent intercommunal clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur State, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
About 1 860 refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, were forced to cross into neighbouring Chad in the past week, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.
The refugees fled their homes in villages near the border in the aftermath of deadly clashes that started on April 3. The resurging violence has reportedly left 144 people dead and more than 230 injured.
“In the meantime, humanitarian agencies are trying to establish the exact number of newly displaced people within West Darfur, which is estimated to be in the thousands,” said Baloch.
He said refugees arriving in Chad speak of houses and properties being destroyed and of sites hosting displaced people being targeted. Some of the new arrivals had already been displaced by earlier clashes last year and in January this year.
El Geneina is only 20km away from the Sudan-Chad border. Refugees have crossed near the town of Adré, in Ouaddaï province, and are being hosted just 200m away from the volatile border.
“UNHCR teams from our nearby office in Farchana have rushed to receive refugees. Our staff report conditions on the ground being dire, with displaced families staying in the open or under the little shade of trees or makeshift shelters, with barely any protection from the elements in an area where temperature can rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day,” Baloch said.
“Food and water are also urgently needed.”
UNHCR, with its government counterpart and humanitarian partners, is on the ground and co-ordinating the humanitarian response. The priority is to relocate the refugees to a safer location where essential assistance and access to health can be provided, and quarantine measures against Covid-19 implemented.
Ouaddai province, where the new arrivals are crossing, already hosts 145 000 Darfurian refugees, and the UNHCR expects the influx to continue if security is not quickly restored in Darfur.
The country also hosts thousands of refugees fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) as fighting between government forces and rebel groups forces tens of thousands to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
Despite Covid-19, Chadian authorities have kept the country’s border open and allowed access to asylum to some 8 500 refugees who fled since the beginning of this year, the UNHCR said last week.
After two weeks of quarantine in a centre built for the recent influx of refugees, 5 000 refugees were settled in Doholo, a nearby refugee camp already hosting 6 000 Central Africans who fled violence in 2014.