26 February 2008 More than 5,500 Chadians who fled fighting in their capital, N'Djamena, earlier this month and have been living in temporary sites in north-eastern Cameroon have now been relocated to a newly equipped camp in the village of Maltam, according to United Nations humanitarian officials.
Another 10,000 refugees are expected to be transferred to the camp from the town of Kousséri, which at one point was hosting some 30,000 Chadians – who left their homeland due to fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups – in two temporary sites, as well as in local schools, churches and private homes.
The UN Resident Coordinator for Cameroon reports that many have returned to Chad. “At present, along with the Cameroonian authorities, we plan to continue providing assistance and protection to an estimated 15,000 refugees, until they feel comfortable enough to return home,” said Sophie de Caen.
Jacques Franquin, Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country added that “the camp will enable us to provide assistance and protection in the best possible way.”
UNHCR reports that a total of 4,600 families – comprising around 20,000 people – have registered with the agency and indicated that they want to stay in Cameroon for the time being.
The relocation to Maltam camp, which has been made possible thanks to a $4.7 million grant from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), began on 16 February. Upon their arrival, the refugees received essential non-food items from UNHCR, such as plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, cooking stoves, soap, and sanitary items.
A cargo plane chartered by UNHCR is set to leave on Wednesday from Denmark to Cameroon carrying some 40 tonnes of relief items. This is the third airlift organized by the agency for Chadian refugees in Cameroon. Two similar flights took place earlier this month, bringing 90 tonnes of essential supplies.
In addition, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed a total of 28 tonnes of food and is providing logistical support for the relocation. “So far, we have completed five general food distributions, targeting all refugees newly arrived in Maltam,” said Abdoulaye Baldé, acting WFP Representative in Cameroon.
Refugees arriving in Maltam are being provided with nutritional screening thanks to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and partner non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). About 25 cases of moderate malnutrition and nine of severe malnutrition were identified so far.
Following a successful measles and polio vaccination drive in Kousséri last week, UNICEF is set to begin a campaign against meningitis this Thursday in the Maltam camp and surrounding areas. The agency is also partnering with the NGO Action Aid to provide recreational and educational opportunities for children in the Maltam camp.
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