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Eastern Chad: vital help for new refugees from Darfur

22-02-2008 Feature

Over 10,000 people, some of them wounded, have been forced to flee from their villages and head for neighbouring Chad after recent bouts of fighting around the Sudanese towns of Seleia, Abu Suruj and Sirba. Report by Inah Kaloga on the ICRC’s action to assist them.

Yayhia Khalil is wondering how he is going to recognize his ICRC colleagues, then he tells himself that they will certainly find him because of the tabard he is wearing.

Yayhia is an ICRC delegate working in eastern Chad. He is in Birak where he is endeavouring to coordinate with other humanitarian organizations the delivery of emergency relief supplies to more than 10,000 people who have crossed the border after recent fighting around the Sudanese towns of Seleia, Abu Suruj and Sirba. These 10,000 people include ICRC personnel who have also had to leave the town where one of their staff members was killed.

The residents of Birak and the surrounding area have shown great generosity towards the new arrivals and have readily shared shelter, food and water with them.

“We must meet the refugees’ needs for food, water, blankets and other basic necessities as quickly as possible and we must care for the injured until UNHCR can transfer them to another location " , explains Yayhia.

That is why ICRC teams are working to rapidly install water supplies and to distribute blankets, soap, jerrycans to carry water and other essentials. 

This assistance should enable the refugees – many of whom are women or young children – to cope with the low temperatures at night, to have access to drinking water and to wait for their transfer, which should take place in a few days time, in reasonably hygienic conditions.

Furthermore some of these refugees, who had to walk for several hours to find safety, are very worried about the fate of their relatives who have remained on the other side of the border.

In the next few day the ICRC will therefore try to gather information making it possible to restore contact between the new arrivals and the members of their family. 

Yayhia has finally managed to find some of his ICRC colleagues. They are tired and very upset by the death of their colleague and friend, but they are safe. On the other side of the border, ICRC personnel working in Sudan are doing their best to send a team to Seleia as fast as possible in order to find out what caused the tragic death of the ICRC employee and to assess civilians'needs.