22 February 2008 As many as 20,000 Chadian refugees who recently fled to northern Cameroon are receiving essential food items from the United Nations, as they begin to make their way from a transit centre near the border to a camp.
The refugees, who left the Chadian capital of N'Djamena because of fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups, are being transferred to Maltan camp from the transit site in Kousseri, which is currently host to some 30,000 refugees.
So far, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has provided more than 2,400 refugees who have arrived at Maltan camp with a 10-day ration of high-energy biscuits, pulses, cereals and vegetable oil.
The agency noted that as the security situation has eased in N'Djamena, many people began returning to the Chadian capital last week. Others, however, do not feel ready to go back yet. Many of the refugees lost much of their belongings during looting in N'Djamena.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it has registered over 10,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) who have crossed into southern Chad at the Maya and Bougounanga border crossings.
“Hundreds more are awaiting screening by our teams and new arrivals are crossing the border every day,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said at a press briefing in Geneva today.
The first refugees crossed into Chad last December in relatively small numbers, followed by major influxes in recent weeks.
Mr. Redmond said that a UNHCR emergency mission that went to the border region on Thursday found that the refugees are exhausted by their long journey to reach safety in Chad, and living out in the open with only makeshift shelters and trees for cover.
UNHCR is setting up a transit centre in Dembo, 25 kilometres north of the border, where it will begin to relocate the refugees beginning next Wednesday and provide them with relief items. Trucks carrying supplies left N'Djamena on Wednesday with 400 tents, 6,000 blankets, 4,187 jerry cans, 6,000 mats and 400 rolls of plastic sheeting. WFP is also planning to do a food distribution in Dembo.
In addition, UNHCR is working to move some of the refugees to one of three refugee camps near Goré – the main town in southern Chad. There are at least 50,000 refugees from northern CAR in three camps and along the border in southern Chad.
In a related development, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated $4.7 million to provide humanitarian assistance to Chadians who fled to Kousséri.
“Thanks to these funds, the United Nations will be able to assist and protect thousands of refugees over the coming weeks,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said.
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