Refugees, Aid Efforts Threatened as Darfur Crisis Spills into Chad
Battles erupted Saturday in Darfur, several kilometers from the IRC-managed Oure Cassoni refugee camp across the border in northeastern Chad.
While there was no targeting of the camp, Darfur refugees say they are frightened and worried that the horrific violence they left behind in Darfur is encroaching on their place of refuge.
Oure Cassoni’s proximity to the fighting is limiting the ability of IRC aid workers, based in the nearby Chadian border town of Bahai, to access the camp. Nevertheless, IRC’s trained refugee staff have been able to continue health, water, sanitation and other services for more than 25,000 refugees at the site without interruption.
It is not clear whether the latest fighting caused civilian casualties in Darfur, but more than 100 wounded soldiers from both sides overwhelmed the IRC-assisted hospital in Bahai over a three-day period. More continue to trickle in and are receiving treatment after disarming. The flood of patients has swamped the medical staff and limited their ability to tend to civilians’ needs.
The intense clashes in the border area prompted the UN refugee agency, UNHCR to announce plans for the imminent relocation of refugees from Oure Cassoni and another camp near the border, Am Nabak.
“There is a need for Oure Cassoni’s residents to be shifted to a safer location inside Chad,” says Joseph Aguettant, head of IRC’s programs in Chad. “The IRC is prepared to assist and is ready to set up essential services at the new site. But we are also concerned that the UN’s target transfer date of October 23 does not provide adequate time for consultations with the refugees and proper planning for the move.”
Aguettant and the IRC team have started meeting with refugee leaders and representative women, men and youth at the camp to discuss the issue.