Thousands of refugees who have fled random banditry and violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are in urgent need of international assistance as they gather in and around camps in neighbouring Chad, WFP has warned.
WFP already has an operation in place to feed about 32,000 long-term refugees from northern CAR in Chad.
However, an influx of as many as 11,000 new arrivals since June this year has stretched resources to the point where an additional US$930,000 is now required to ensure adequate supplies for all at least until the end of January next year.
“People have been arriving in extremely poor shape and in need of urgent assistance,” said Stefano Porretti, WFP Chad’s Country Director.
“We have been able to mount an immediate response with the stocks that we have, but food supplies will run out at the end of the year unless we receive new contributions. These are among the forgotten refugees of Africa.”
WFP has been supporting the long-term refugees in the two UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) camps of Amboko and Yaroungou with a reduced ration since some cultivation in the latter camp has been possible.
However, for the new arrivals this general distribution is not enough to cover their daily nutritional needs. In October, WFP is therefore providing an additional ration to some 3,000 particularly vulnerable people among the new arrivals – predominantly infants, young children and their mothers.
A full ration is planned for distribution to the new arrivals in November and December.
Although the rainy season is nearing its end, heavy downpours continue to play havoc with the roads, delaying deliveries of food from WFP’s logistics base in Douala, Cameroon.
Refugees continue to cross into Chad in small numbers by canoe, many navigating the Nana-Markounda River that marks the frontier, while there are reports that others have fled to safety within CAR itself.
Information on the violence is patchy, but refugees tell stories of armed groups storming villages, shooting randomly and looting. Few had time to collect any possessions before fleeing.
The strife in northern CAR has even prompted some 1,400 Chadian refugees to return home with the assistance of UNHCR after more than 20 years in exile.
Efforts are currently focused on providing immediate emergency assistance to the new arrivals, but WFP and UNHCR are also working together to improve self-reliance in the long term.
Land is available for cultivation around Yaroungou camp, where refugees have planted over 1,000 hectares of crops. Harvests of cereals and peanuts will have a substantial impact on their ability to take care of their own food needs.
“Although some people are now fending for themselves to some degree, the new arrivals especially remain completely dependent on outside assistance and their plight has barely registered in the rest of the world. They have had a horrifying ordeal and their needs are as urgent as any others,” said Porretti.
WFP Chad is also providing for the food needs of 200,000 refugees from the Darfur conflict, resident in a string of camps in the east of the country.
The operation currently faces a shortfall in funding of 68 percent – or US$58.7 million.