Countdown Until Rainy Season in Chad Signals Alarm

Catholic Relief Services
Wednesday, 5 May 2004

With the rainy season just four weeks away in the central African country of Chad, the rapid, organized delivery of sufficient food and humanitarian supplies – as well as finding and protecting adequate water sources for camps of Sudanese refugees – is urgent, according to field reports from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The agency also urges the participation of the U.S. government, the UN and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in monitoring genuine peace negotiations to resolve the conflict in the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan.

"From an operational standpoint, the greatest need over the next four weeks is effective collaboration among UN partners and the immediate, organized mobilization of our resources so that, should roads become impassable when the rains come, food and supplies will be within reach of refugees," said Kevin Hartigan, CRS regional director for Central Africa. "There already has been considerable tension in the Kounoungou refugee camp due to inadequate food supplies, preventing relief workers from entering camps on some days. Further food shortages could be disastrous."

CRS currently assists its Chadian partner, Secours Catholique et Développement (SECADEV), in managing three refugee camps in Farchana, Kounoungou and Touloum, each roughly 50 km. inside the Chadian border. SECADEV was the first agency to respond with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to the Sudanese refugee crisis in late 2003.

With the number of refugees at the camps growing by the day, and the sporadic, at times inadequate, supply chain in recent weeks, CRS has become increasingly concerned. Based on the standard ration of 15 kg. of food needed to feed one person for one month, at least 2,700 tons of food is needed for at least 60,000 refugees over three months. Adequate food and supplies must be pre-positioned at all refugee camps before the onset of the rainy season in early June, according to CRS.

In Touloum and Farchana, the unforeseen arrival of spontaneous refugees (those arriving directly in the camps without transiting through UNHCR registration posts at the border) is overwhelming the camps' water supply. Touloum camp was originally set up to accommodate 6,000 refugees; as of May 3, SECADEV put the total camp population at 11,874. Inadequate water supply is an urgent concern and a growing health threat.

According to CRS, greater resources are needed for water exploration, and for trucking in water with cistern trucks from other locations if sources near the camps cannot be found and secured.

CRS is also urging the U.S. government and the international community to increase pressure on key parties involved in the Darfur peace negotiations to address the root causes of the conflict that led to the massive refugee flow over the past year, and to press for immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access into the Darfur region.

"We strongly encourage members of the international community to take a greater, more influential and vocal part in facilitating genuine and durable peace negotiations," said Hartigan.

CRS recommends that:

· The UNHCR provide effective coordination and mobilization of resources so that sufficient food and other essential supplies are positioned at refugee camps before the rainy season, and that adequate water sources are found and protected;

· International donors respond quickly and generously to UNHCR appeals for funds to assist as many as 110,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad;

· The U.S. government and the international community push for genuine and internationally-observed peace negotiations and a lasting settlement of the conflict in Darfur;

· The Government of Sudan provide unimpeded humanitarian access to vulnerable populations in Darfur, and protection of humanitarian workers and supplies.

CRS has worked in Chad for several years and opened an office in N'djamena in 2002. In Sudan, CRS has supported relief and development programs since the end of the first major civil war in 1972, when the agency helped to resettle internally displaced Sudanese. SECADEV is the relief and development arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of N'djamena.

For more information, or to contact Catholic Relief Services, see their website at: www.catholicrelief.org

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