|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN CHAD
Increased international support was needed in order to address the continuing humanitarian crisis in Chad, which was becoming even more complicated, Kingsley Amaning, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in that country, said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Presenting an update of the humanitarian situation in Chad, he said the United Nations had launched a consolidated appeal for $240 million in December but less than 2 per cent of that amount, including pledges, had been received. In addition to resources, advocacy on the part of the international community was also needed to bring about an improvement in the environment.
He said the United Nations was worried that, as the number of displaced people from eastern Chad had risen in the last couple of months and the number of refugees from the Central African Republic had increased from 45,000 to 57,000, the resulting logistical challenges and insecurity had multiplied and the Organization’s capacity to deliver was increasingly compromised. The crisis had brought about large-scale human suffering, threats to and abuse of human life, and denial of the opportunity for thousands of people to live in dignity and security.
Until a few months ago, 240,000 Sudanese refugees who had left the Darfur region because of instability and war had been living in Chad since 2004, he said. The United Nations had been trying to provide assistance and protection to them, but, in the last month, their number had increased to 250,000. There was concern that the number would increase further because peace had not returned to Darfur. There were many potential refugees, given the growing number of displaced persons who might eventually have no choice but to proceed to the refugee camps. The 250,000 people in the area constituted a major problem owing to the inhospitable environment, which normally could not sustain more than 20,000 people. Under normal circumstances people were spread out and having such a large number in the 12 refugee camps posed many logistical problems.
Mr. Amaning said the same crisis had contributed to the displacement of some 80,000 Chadians affected by insecurity, war, attacks and inter-ethnic fighting. Organized armed groups were able to attack and escape easily into Darfur, where there was a massive proliferation of arms amid limited Government control. In Darfur, people preferred to use weapons and armed groups to settle disputes rather than take the traditional approach of gathering under trees to settle their differences.
Nearly 700,000 to 800,000 of the people living in those areas had become vulnerable because their livelihoods had been affected by the crisis in Darfur and the one in Chad at the same time, he continued. The Darfur situation affected them because they were normally engaged in livestock trading across the border from Chad through Darfur to Egypt and Libya. They were now unable to do that because war had limited their space and made commerce very hazardous. Also, the large concentration of population resulting from the flow of refugees impacted the environment, water and energy supplies, and the availability of educational and medical facilities.
He said the United Nations faced enormous logistical challenges in providing assistance to the large number of people now living on international assistance. Access to landlocked Chad, particularly the eastern part, was difficult. To provide food, convoys had to be organized from Tripoli in Libya, or Douala in Cameroon. They had to cover long distances over roads made treacherous by sand dunes and sometimes rendered impassable during the rainy season. Further complications arose from the insecurity that was a consequence of armed incursions and military operations. On average there had been eight such incursions or armed confrontations each rainy season since 2006.
In spite of those difficulties, the United Nations was maintaining its presence and continuing with assistance to the refugees and displaced persons, he said. The Organization wanted to be able to do more but that required greater investment, better planning systems and Government participation. With the Government fully engrossed in fighting for survival, it had found it difficult to meet its responsibilities. As a result, vulnerable groups were increasingly having enormous difficulties making ends meet and their communities were becoming increasingly fragile.
He went on to say that incursions were becoming a major challenge to the provision of assistance to refuges. In the last two years, more than 80 United Nations vehicles had been stolen or hijacked, and humanitarian workers had come under various forms of attack. In that regard, the decision of the United Nations and the international community to field a mission that would guarantee minimum security and restore civil protection for the people through the European Union mission was welcome. That mission was expected to have attained its initial capacity of operation by the end of March.
The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) was also expected to provide the Government with the opportunity to bring back civil protection for its own people, he said. Once the Government had put in place the institutions for protection, it was likely that the number of United Nations vehicles stolen and the number of attacks perpetrated against the Organization’s personnel would fall.
With living standards having deteriorated seriously over the past four to five years, many male children had been recruited to join armed groups and rebellions, he said, noting that they risked having their lives shortened by intense confrontation and violence. There were also high rates of abuse and denial of human rights. Thus, it was just not enough to provide people with food, but efforts must be made to provide them with a basic minimum environment that allowed for a decent life.
Responding to questions, Mr. Amaning said that, to their credit, neither of the belligerent Governments in Sudan and Chad nor the rebel groups had directly attacked any of the refugee camps. However, going by experiences from other crisis situations, the United Nations had decided to ask for additional guarantees which had now been expressed through the presence of the 3,500 European Union forces being deployed and MINURCAT, which was expected to help the Chadian Government train and deploy about 1,200 gendarmes and police. They would help to ensure not only the presence of civil-protection institutions in the camps but also the safety of internally displaced persons returning to the areas from which they had originally come.
He added that, in order to decrease the amount of the weapons in the area, the first step would be to find a solution to the crisis and to ensure that normalcy returned. Such a political settlement should then be followed by a disarmament and demobilisation process. In addition, there would need to be a scheme to encourage people to resolve their differences without the need to resort to arms.
In answer to another question, he said that the advocacy effort envisaged would encompass not just Governments, but also civil society, which could help organize campaigns to mobilize public opinion, and impress upon Governments the importance of finding solutions.
Mr. Amaning added that the state of emergency declared in Chad last month would end on 15 March. Immediately after the February attack on N’Djamena, things had been difficult for humanitarian organizations, which had been forced to evacuate some of their personnel. It had also been difficult for the Government to receive and accompany aid missions. Since the imposition of the state of emergency, however, the United Nations had continued to distribute food that was already in the pipeline. Water and health facilities were also being delivered, and there was some access to education and protection. However, stocks had diminished and would need to be replenished.
* *** *