N'DJAMENA Conflict in the three states of Darfur (Western Sudan) has brought a humanitarian crisis to the Chadian border, with displacement and disruption for around one million people, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. About 95,000 refugees (including up to 30,000 during December) have fled fighting between forces loyal to the Government in Khartoum and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), as well as tribal/ethnic clashes.
"The humanitarian situation in the border area has quickly become very serious and as the need for assistance grows, food and relief stocks are dwindling," said Philippe Guyon Le Bouffy, WFP's Representative in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.
Following a recently launched emergency operation (EMOP 10327.0), WFP is urgently appealing for US$ 11 million to cover the food needs of 60,000 of the most vulnerable Sudanese refugees settled in camps or living with Chadian families. Having borrowed from its limited food stocks in Chad, WFP has been distributing some 500 tons of food rations to about 14,000 people, while Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has met the nutritional needs of nursing women and children.
According to UNHCR, refugees who are recent arrivals in Chad speak of marauding militias, arriving early in the morning on horses and camels to burn and loot. They describe a pattern repeated from one village to the next: inhabitants flee in terror to hide, but many of the men are killed while their property and livestock are stolen.
One man who arrived in Chad from Garuma village, 20 kilometres from the border, managed to get his pregnant wife and their five children to a nearby hill, where his wife gave birth. The next day, the family had to flee again, when their hill was set on fire by the militiamen.
Most of the refugees are women and children, who are in dire need of food, medicine and other basic supplies. After walking for days from their villages to cross the border, they set up flimsy shelters made of branches and grass. They have exhausted their food stocks and many are suffering from diarrhea and respiratory infections. The situation is further exacerbated by extreme temperatures, ranging from zero degrees Celsius at night to 30 degrees during the day.
"For the refugees, who have had to walk several days with their babies and few belongings on their backs, emergency food rations represent a vital lifeline," Guyon Le Bouffy said. "We should remember that these people have suffered not only the recent violence, but also recurring droughts and poor harvests in Darfur. Given the high rate of malnutrition among the very young, they are physically ill-equipped to cope in such harsh circumstances."
The number of internally displaced people in the three Darfur states affected by the conflict has now reached one million people. Since February, widespread killings, damage and displacement has forced many farmers to leave their land, which will contribute to poor food production this year, despite earlier promises of a good yield.
The situation for the refugees in the northern zone (in and around Tiné) is becoming especially precarious. It is increasingly difficult for them to find wood, shelter materials and water due to the desert environment. Although the host population has assisted where possible, they are mainly subsistence farmers -living from hand to mouth who cannot cope with additional demands.
WFP has increased its operational capacity in Abéché, near the border with Sudan, thanks to an airlift in early December by WFP's partner, the global mail, express, and logistics company TPG/TNT. Equipment including two four-wheel drive vehicles, four pre-fabricated warehouses, rub halls and medical kits were brought in from the UN humanitarian response depot in Brindisi, Italy.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed nearly 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
For more information please contact:
Philippe Guyon LeBouffy
Tel. (235) 51.54.74 (235) 52.48.01