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UN agencies need three times as much cash to help Darfur refugees

[Chad] World Food Programme (WFP) vehicle stuck in a flooded wadi in eastern Chad during the 2004 rainy season.
World Food Programme (WFP) vehicle stuck in a flooded wadi in eastern Chad during the 2004 rainy season. (WFP)

The United Nations has tripled the amount of money it needs from international donors to help Darfur refugees who fled to neighbouring Chad, because more and more people have arrived in the impoverished dustbowl and the rainy season is making aid operations more expensive.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Friday, it now needed $166 million, compared to the $54 million it requested in March.

"Thus far, current contributions and pledges amount to $80 million, or 48 percent of the revised requirements," OCHA added.

Since March, the number of Darfuris seeking refuge in Chad had almost doubled to 200,000 and as a result, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates it now needs $105 million compared with $20 million five months ago.

Refugees say the pro-government militia, known as the Janjawid, are burning and looting black African villages, raping the women and murdering the men. Khartoum says it considers the militia, mounted on horses and camels, to be outlaws and denies supporting them.

“There are many more refugees now than at the beginning of the operation”, Jennifer Clark, a UNHCR spokesperson told IRIN from Geneva on Monday.“And the refugees who arrived in Chad recently told us that thousands others were planning to cross the border."

Earlier this month UN officials warned that a further 30,000 refugees from Darfur had threatened to flood into Chad from the town of El Geneina if no measures were taken to protect them on the Sudanese side of the border.

Clark told IRIN on Monday that the refugee agency was making contingency plans to deal with another possible 100,000 people needing aid.

However, it is not just the refugees that will benefit from the newly-requested funds. Chadians living in villages near the border have had to share their already-meagre resources with the influx of people from Darfur. And the diseases, like cholera and Hepatitis E, which have broken out in the camps have spread to the local population as well.

The World Food Programme, which has more than doubled its appeal from $19 million in March to $42 million today, will feed Chadian women and children living near the camps as well as the refugees themselves.

“The current budget revision takes into account the new refugee arrivals; in addition, following a nutrition survey that highlighted malnutrition in the camps, 55,000 refugees and members of the host populations will benefit from a supplementary feeding programme,” Jean-Charles Dei, WFP’s coordinator, told IRIN by telephone from the Chadian capital N'djamena on Monday.

Besides the doubling of Sudanese refugees on Chadian soil, OCHA said the inhospitable terrain coupled with the rainy season had also pushed up the cost of aid operations.

“Road transport for example has been compromised by a lack of commercial fuel supplies, and in many cases, costly air transport has been the only option. Also aggravating the situation is the advancing rainy season, which will isolate refugees and require the pre-positioning of stocks," OCHA said.

Heavy rains in Chad are already rendering dirt roads impassable and filling dry river beds, creating new barriers. Several humanitarian organisations have seen their four wheel drives swallowed up by the waters as they try to access one of the ten camps which host some 176,000 refugees.

To combat the problem of access, the WFP this weekend opened a new route from Libya. A 20-truck convoy left the Libyan town of Al Khofra on Saturday carrying 440 tons of wheat flour on a 2,000 km journey across the Sahara desert.

“We expect that convoy will be in Oure Cassoni camp by 5 September," WFP coordinator Dei said. “Thanks to the Libyan corridor, we will be able to feed the people in the camps in the north and the centre all year round."

OCHA said the recent arrival of locust swarms in Chad also meant more funds were needed. The first swarms of insects were sighted earlier this month in Ati, 450km east of the capital N'djamena and seriously threaten crops, vegetation and pastureland in an already-impoverished, arid country.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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